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Which behaviour change techniques are associated with interventions that increase physical activity in pre-school children? A systematic review

Al-walah, Mosfer A.; Donnelly, Michael; Cunningham, Conor; Heron, Neil


Mosfer A. Al-walah

Michael Donnelly

Conor Cunningham


Background: Insufficient physical activity (PA) is a significant risk factor that contributes to several health problems and there is a need to improve our understanding of how to increase PA, particularly among young children. This review (PROSPERO registration: CRD42022328841) investigated the relationship between behaviour change techniques (BCTs) and interventions that increased PA among pre-school children aged < 6 years old.

Methods: Systematic searches of six databases were undertaken from inception to July 2022, updated in December 2022, to locate studies that evaluated interventions and reported a positive change in PA levels in children aged < 6 years old.

Results: A total of 5,304 studies were screened, and 28 studies involving 10,605 subjects aged 2.5 to 5.9 years met the eligibility criteria. Each eligible study (n = 28) was independently appraised by two researchers using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. The BCT Taxonomy v1 and the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) guided the extraction and analysis of data, and this process led to the identification of 27 BCTs.

Conclusions: Potentially promising BCTs for increasing PA among young children included ‘shaping knowledge,’ ‘antecedents,’ ‘goals and planning,’ and ‘comparison of behaviour.’ Future PA interventions that target young children should consider integrating these promising BCTs into their programmes. However, such consideration needs to be tempered by the fact that most of the reviewed studies were deemed to have a high or unclear risk of bias and/or were limited with respect to the populations that they targeted. Further research using rigorous methodologies is required to establish a higher standard that addresses the needs of young children who are expected to have insufficient levels of physical activity.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 3, 2023
Online Publication Date Oct 16, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 23, 2023
Journal BMC Public Health
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 2013
Keywords Intervention, Young children (< 6 years old), Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) criteria, Physical activity, Behaviour Change Techniques (BCTs)