What works best when implementing a physical activity intervention for teenagers? Reflections from the ACTIVE Project: A qualitative study

Michaela James*, Danielle Christian, Samantha Scott, Charlotte Todd, Gareth Stratton, Joanne Demmler, Sarah McCoubrey, Julian Halcox, Suzanne Audrey, Elizabeth A Ellins, Elizabeth Irvine, Sinead Brophy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
170 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: This paper explores what aspects of a multicomponent intervention were deemed strengths and weaknesses by teenagers and the local council when promoting physical activity to young people. Design: Qualitative findings at 12 months from a mixed method randomised control trial. Methods: Active Children Through Incentive Vouchers - Evaluation (ACTIVE) gave teenagers £20 of activity enabling vouchers every month for a year. Peer mentors were also trained and a support worker worked with teenagers to improve knowledge of what was available. Semistructured focus groups took place at 12 months to assess strengths and weaknesses of the intervention. Eight focus groups (n=64 participants) took place with teenagers and one additional focus group was dedicated to the local council's sport development team (n=8 participants). Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Results: Teenagers used the vouchers on three main activities: trampolining, laser tag or the water park. These appeal to both genders, are social, fun and require no prior skill or training. Choice and financial support for teenagers in deprived areas was considered a strength by teenagers and the local council. Teenagers did not engage with a trained peer mentor but the support worker was considered helpful. Conclusions: The ACTIVE Project's delivery had both strengths and weakness that could be used to underpin future physical activity promotion. Future interventions should focus on improving access to low cost, fun, unstructured and social activities rather than structured organised exercise/sport. The lessons learnt from this project can help bridge the gap between what is promoted to teenagers and what they actually want from activity provision.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere025618
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Population Health Science Institute


  • community child health
  • public health
  • qualitative research


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