Improving physical activity levels in prevocational students by student participation

protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial


Background: A consistent finding in the literature is the decline in physical activity during adolescence, resulting in activity levels below the recommended guidelines. Therefore, promotion of physical activity is recommended specifically for prevocational students.<br/><br/>Objective: This protocol paper describes the background and design of a physical activity promotion intervention study in which prevocational students are invited to participate in the design and implementation of an intervention mix. The intervention is expected to prevent a decline in physical activity in the target group.<br/><br/>Methods: The effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated in a two-group cluster randomized controlled trial with assessments at baseline and 2-year follow-up. A simple randomization was applied, allocating 11 schools to the intervention group and 11 schools to the control group, which followed the regular school curriculum. The research population consisted of 3003 prevocational students, aged 13-15 years. The primary outcome measures were self-reported physical activity levels (screen time, active commuting, and physical activity). As a secondary outcome, direct assessment of physical fitness (leg strength, arm strength, hip flexibility, hand speed, abdominal muscle strength, BMI, and body composition) was included. An intervention-control group comparison was presented for the baseline results. The 2-year interventions began by mapping the assets of the prevocational adolescents of each intervention school using motivational interviewing in the structured interview matrix and the photovoice method. In addition, during focus group sessions, students, school employees, and researchers cocreated and implemented an intervention plan that optimally met the students’ assets and opportunities in the school context. The degree of student participation was evaluated through interviews and questionnaires.<br/><br/>Results: Data collection of the SALVO (stimulating an active lifestyle in prevocational students) study began in October 2015 and was completed in December 2017. Data analyses will be completed in 2021. Baseline comparisons between the intervention and control groups were not significant for age (P=.12), screen time behavior (P=.53), nonschool active commuting (P=.26), total time spent on sports activities (P=.32), total physical activities (P=.11), hip flexibility (P=.22), maximum handgrip (P=.47), BMI (P=.44), and sum of skinfolds (P=.29). Significant differences between the intervention and control groups were found in ethnicity, gender, active commuting to school (P=.03), standing broad jump (P=.02), bent arm hang (P=.01), 10× 5-m sprint (P=.01), plate tapping (P=.01), sit-ups (P=.01), and 20-m shuttle run (P=.01).<br/><br/>Conclusions: The SALVO study assesses the effects of a participatory intervention on physical activity and fitness levels in prevocational students. The results of this study may lead to a new understanding of the effectiveness of school-based physical activity interventions when students are invited to participate and cocreate an intervention. This process would provide structured health promotion for future public health.

Reference van de Kop, H., Toussaint, H., Janssen, M., Busch, V., & Verhoeff, A. (2021). Improving physical activity levels in prevocational students by student participation: protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 10(7), Article e28273.
Published by  Urban Vitality 28 July 2021

Publication date

Jul 2021


Huub Toussaint
Vincent Busch
Arnoud Verhoeff


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