Background: Inactive lifestyles are becoming the norm and creative approaches to encourage adolescents to be more physically active are needed. Little is known about how gamification techniques can be used in physical activity interventions for young people. Such approaches may stimulate interest and encourage physical activity behaviour. The study investigated the feasibility of implementing and evaluating a physical activity intervention for adolescents which included gamification techniques within schools. We tested recruitment and retention strategies for schools and participants, the use of proposed outcome measures, and explored intervention acceptability. Methods: This school-based feasibility study of a randomised cluster trial recruited adolescents aged 12-14 years (n = 224) from five schools (three intervention; two control) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The 22-week intervention (The StepSmart Challenge) informed by self-determination theory and incorporating gamification strategies involved a school-based pedometer competition. Outcomes, measured at baseline, and post-intervention (at 22 weeks post-baseline and 52 weeks post-baseline) included daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (measured using ActiGraph accelerometer), mental wellbeing (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale), social support for physical activity, time preference (for delayed and larger rewards or immediate and smaller rewards), pro-social behaviour (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)) and the influence of social networks. The intervention's acceptability was explored in focus groups. Results: We invited 14 schools to participate; eight showed interest in participating. We recruited the first five who responded; all five completed the trial. Of the 236 pupils invited, 224 participated (94.9%): 84.8% (190/224) provided valid MVPA (minutes/day) at baseline and 57.2% (123/215) at 52 weeks. All other outcomes were well completed apart from the SDQ (65% at baseline). Qualitative data highlighted that participants and teachers found The StepSmart Challenge to be an acceptable intervention. Conclusions: The level of interest and high recruitment and retention rates provide support for the feasibility of this trial. The intervention, incorporating gamification strategies and the recruitment methods, using parental opt-out procedures, were acceptable to participants and teachers. Teachers also suggested that the implementation of The StepSmart Challenge could be embedded in a lifelong learning approach to health within the school curriculum. As young people's lives become more intertwined with technology, the use of innovative gamified interventions could be one approach to engage and motivate health behavioural change in this population. Trial registration: NCT02455986 (date of registration: 28 May 2015).
- Behaviour change
- Mixed methods
- Physical activity
- Randomised controlled trial
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
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- School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work - Senior Lecturer
- Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation