The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness and cost of an after-school dance intervention at increasing the physical activity levels of Year 7 girls (age 11–12).
A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in 18 secondary schools. Participants were Year 7 girls attending a study school. The Bristol Girls Dance Project (BGDP) intervention consisted of up to forty, 75-minute dance sessions delivered in the period immediately after school by experienced dance instructors over 20-weeks. The pre-specified primary outcome was accelerometer assessed mean minutes of weekday moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) at time 2 (52 weeks are T0 baseline assessments). Secondary outcomes included accelerometer assessed mean minutes of weekday MVPA at time 1 (while the intervention was still running) and psychosocial outcomes. Intervention costs were assessed.
571 girls participated. Valid accelerometer data were collected from 549 girls at baseline with 508 girls providing valid accelerometer data at baseline and time 2. There were no differences between the intervention and control group for accelerometer assessed physical activity at either time 1 or time 2. Only one third of the girls in the intervention arm met the pre-set adherence criteria of attending two thirds of the dance sessions that were available to them. Instrumental variable regression analyses using complier average causal effects provided no evidence of a difference between girls who attended the sessions and the control group. The average cost of the intervention was £73 per girl, which was reduced to £63 when dance instructor travel expenses were excluded.
This trial showed no evidence that an after-school dance programme can increase the physical activity of Year 7 girls. The trial highlighted the difficulty encountered in maintaining attendance in physical activity programmes delivered in secondary schools. There is a need to find new ways to help adolescent girls to be physically active via identifying ways to support and encourage sustained engagement in physical activity over the life course.Trial registrationISRCTN52882523