A new study will target teachers to inspire Canadian adolescents to get active
Mark Beauchamp, an associate professor in UBC’s School of Human Kinetics, along with researchers at Queen’s University and Acadia University, will be working with high school teachers to better motivate Grade 9 students to lead physically active lifestyles.
Physical activity guidelines recommend that adolescents get at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. These recommendations, released by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology in January, are intended to promote good health.
Estimates suggest that fewer than a half of Canadian adolescents are sufficiently active to meet international guidelines for healthy growth and development, says Beauchamp. This has implications for the individual’s health but also for society. According to a report from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the direct health costs of inactivity in Canada are estimated to be $2.1-billion a year.
“As a researcher, it is great to be involved in intervention-based work that promotes good health and makes a difference,” says Beauchamp.
For this study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Beauchamp and his colleagues will conduct a randomized controlled trial, called “Adolescence In Motion,” involving Grade 9 physical education teachers and their students in 36 schools in B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia. Beauchamp and his colleagues will train teachers using principles from transformational leadership theory, and then measure the effects of the intervention in changing teacher behaviour as well as students’ physical activity levels and motivation.
Transformational teaching involves teaching through the demonstration of personally held values; being optimistic about what students can achieve; addressing the individual needs of students; and stimulating students intellectually to address old problems in new ways.
“In our preliminary pilot work, students reported improvements in motivation and confidence to be physically active, after teachers participated in a transformational teaching workshop,” says Beauchamp.
For this next study, involving more than 2,100 Grade 9 students, researchers will go beyond asking students to self-report their motivation, confidence, and healthy living intentions; they will collect objective measures of physical activity.
Students will be given a small device called an accelerometer, which works like a pedometer but gives detailed information about the intensity, duration and time of day of any physical activity. The results will be compiled along with student surveys to measure the impact of the intervention.
“Our primary goals are to improve physical activity levels among adolescents and see greater adoption of transformational teaching principles by school physical education teachers,” says Beauchamp. “In addition, we’re also interested in the psychological mechanisms that might explain any changes in adolescent physical activity behavior.”
Over the coming year, Beauchamp and his colleagues will also be looking to examine how parents who use transformational behaviours can inspire adolescents to make healthy lifestyle choices.