Changing activity behaviours in vocational school students: the stepwise development and optimised content of the 'let's move it' intervention

Nelli Hankonen, Pilvikki Absetz, Vera Araújo-Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: School-based interventions that increase physical activity (PA) in a sustainable way are lacking. Systematic and participatory, theory and evidence-based intervention development may enhance the effectiveness of complex behavioural interventions in the long term. However, detailed descriptions of the intervention development process are rarely openly published, hindering transparency and progress in the field. Aims: To illustrate a stepwise process to develop intervention targeting PA and sedentary behaviour (SB) among older adolescents, and to describe the final, optimised version of the intervention, detailing content of sessions by theoretical determinants and techniques. Methods: Two established intervention development frameworks (Intervention Mapping and Behaviour Change Wheel) were integrated, leading to a comprehensive evidence and theory-based process. It was informed by empirical studies, literature reviews, expert and stakeholder consultation, including scenario evaluation and component pre-testing. In all steps, contextual fit and potential for sustainability were ensured by stakeholder engagement. Results: As a large majority of youth opposed decreasing screen time, increasing PA and decreasing SB were defined as target behaviours, with peers and the school context including classroom practices as key social environments in influencing youth PA (problem specification, step 1). Behavioural diagnosis (step 2) identified a variety of determinants in the domains of capability (e.g. self-regulation skills), motivation (e.g. outcome expectations) and environmental opportunities. These were organised into an intervention theory integrating several formal theories, including Self-Determination Theory. Theory-aligned principles guided material design (Step 3). Feasibility RCT allowed optimisation into a final intervention protocol (step 4). Conclusions: Intervention elements target students directly, and indirectly by changing teacher behaviour and the school and wider environment. A systematic development and optimisation led to a high potential for sustainability. The detailed intervention content, with specification of the hypothesised mechanisms, allows for other researchers to replicate, adapt or refine parts or the whole intervention, considering specific target groups and (sub-)cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-460
Number of pages21
JournalHealth Psychology And Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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