Background: An emerging public health strategy is to enhance children's opportunities to be physically active during school break periods. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of the Lunchtime Enjoyment Activity and Play (LEAP) school playground intervention on primary school children's quality of life (QOL), enjoyment and participation in physical activity (PA).
Methods: This study consisted of a movable/recycled materials intervention that included baseline, a 7-week post-test and an 8-month follow-up data collection phase. Children within an intervention school (n = 123) and a matched control school (n = 152) aged 5-to-12-years-old were recruited for the study. Children's PA was measured using a combination of pedometers and direct observation (SOPLAY). Quality of life, enjoyment of PA and enjoyment of lunchtime activities were assessed in the 8-12 year children. A multi-level mixed effect linear regression model was applied in STATA (version 12.0) using the xtmixed command to fit linear mixed models to each of the variables to examine whether there was a significant difference (p < 0.05) between the intervention and control school at the three time points (pre, post and follow-up).
Results: Significant overall interaction effects (group × time) were identified for children's mean steps and distance (pedometers) in the intervention school compared to the control school. Intervention school children also spent significantly higher proportions within specified target areas engaged in higher PA intensities in comparison to the control school at both the 7-week post-test and 8-month follow-up. A short-term treatment effect was revealed after 7-weeks for children's physical health scale QOL, enjoyment of PA and enjoyment of intra-personal play activities.
Conclusions: Examining the effects of this school playground intervention over a school year suggested that the introduction of movable/recycled materials can have a significant, positive long-term intervention effect on children's PA. The implications from this simple, low-cost intervention provide impetus for schools to consider introducing the concept of a movable/recycled materials intervention on a wider scale within primary school settings.
Trial registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registration Number: ACTRN12613001155785.