Children who regularly engage in physically activity (PA) are generally healthier and show trends towards continuing PA and improved health into adulthood. The majority of child PA inventions have been school-based, with focus on the curriculum and physical education (PE) which traditionally emphasised team-based competitive sports. The trends of diminishing PA in many children and adolescents suggest that other PA programs (i.e., individual, non-competitive) may have a role in the promotion of healthy exercise behaviours in those children who are not attracted by traditional PE programs. The aim of this research was to evaluate such a PA promotion intervention conducted over 6 weeks in a school context. Following ethical approval and informed consent 270 children (Mage = 11.4 years, 53% female) from a Brisbane (QLD) state school participated in a pre-post analysis of the ZOVA program. ZOVA is a new PA program, neither team-based nor competitive, that instructs sports skills using rhythm with audio and visual supporting resources. Children completed a number of pre-post intervention measures including: Time spent exercising; enjoyment of PE program; body image; and depression symptoms. Results were as follows: 1) After participation in ZOVA, children reported small but statistically significant (p less than .05) improvements in several measures of body image/physical self-efficacy, as well as depression symptoms. 2) On average, students reported a small but statistically significant (p less than .05) increase in amount of time exercising, as well as a small statistically significant increase in enjoyment of PE with ZOVA as the PE program. 3) When the group of children who originally nominated themselves as ‘low exercisers’ were analysed separately to ‘high exercisers’, a statistically significant and substantial increase in exercise behaviour was reported by the ‘low exercisers’ (p less than .001, effect size r = .48). In conclusion this non-traditional approach to PE particularly engaged the students who don’t typically do a lot of exercise. Our results appear to support the hypothesis, that for students who are not engaging in traditional PE programs (i.e., competitive, team-based), alternative PA programs can be successful in motivating them to engage in higher levels of PA.
48th Australian Psychological Society (APS) Conference: Psychology for a healthy nation, Cairns, Australia 8-12 October 2013