Do Interventions to Increase Walking Work? A Systematic Review of Interventions in Children and Adolescents

Type Article

Journal Article


A. Carlin; M. H. Murphy; A. M. Gallagher

Year of publication



Sports Med








BACKGROUND: Physical activity (PA) levels decline as children move into adolescence, with this decline more notable in girls. As a consequence, many young people are failing to meet current PA guidelines. Walking has been a cornerstone of PA promotion in adults and may provide an effective means of increasing PA levels among younger people. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to conduct a systematic review of interventions aimed at promoting increased levels of walking among children and adolescents. METHODS: Eight electronic databases-CINAHL, Cochrane Library CENTRAL database, EMBASE, Medline OVID, PsycINFO, Scopus, SPORTDiscus and Web of Knowledge-were searched from their inception up to January 2015 using predefined text terms: walking terms AND intervention terms AND population terms AND (physical activity OR exercise). Reference lists of published systematic reviews and original articles included in the review were also screened. Included studies were randomised and non-randomised controlled trials reporting a specific measure of walking levels (self-reported or objective) to assess the effectiveness of interventions aimed at promoting walking in children and adolescents (aged 5-18 years). Only full articles published in English in peer-reviewed journals were included. Risk of bias and behaviour change techniques of included studies were assessed. RESULTS: Twelve studies were included in this review. The majority of studies assessed interventions delivered within an educational setting, with one study conducted within the family setting. Nine of the included studies reported significant increases in walking in intervention groups versus controls. Commonly employed behaviour change techniques within successful interventions included goals and planning, feedback and monitoring, social support and repetition and substitution. CONCLUSIONS: Walking interventions, particularly those conducted in the school environment, have the potential to increase PA in children and adolescents. Conclusions on which interventions most effectively increased walking behaviours in this population were hindered by the limited number of identified interventions and the short duration of interventions evaluated. The short-term effectiveness of the majority of included studies on levels of walking in this population is promising and further research, particularly within non-educational settings and targeted at sub-groups (e.g. adolescent girls and overweight/obese children and adolescents), is warranted.