Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)


Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Con Burns

Second Advisor

Ms. Jean O'Shea


1.1 Introduction

Sedentary Behaviour (SB) has been associated with deleterious health outcomes such as increased levels of overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes (Tremblay et al, 2010, Pate et al., 2008). Currently, there is a dearth of objective data on the amount of time Irish children spend sedentary and the subsequent effect on their health. The purpose of this study was to assess (i) levels of SB and markers of health among Irish primary school children, and (ii) the effectiveness of a health promotion intervention Project Spraoi on reducing SB and improving markers of health among Irish children.

1.2 Methods

Study one: Data collected were baselines measures for Project Spraoi, a through school PA, SB and nutrition-based intervention. Participants in the current research were in senior infants, (5.9±0.6 yrs.) and 4th class, (9.8±0.5 yrs.) primary school children (N=700) from eleven Cork based schools. Four of these schools were from areas identified as having lower socio economic status, DEIS schools. Levels of SB and PA were assessed using ActiGraph triaxial accelerometers. Validated Time Activity Diaries (TAD) were used to determine the types of activities the children were engaged in (Bringolf et al., 2009). Children in 4th class self-reported their daily activity while proxy reporting (parents) was used for younger children. During the school day the teacher reported on the activities of the children. Markers of health (BMl, waist circumference, BP, cardiovascular fitness and heart rate) were measured using accepted protocol and established norms. Spearman rho and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to investigate the relationship between SB and markers of health.

Study two: Project Spraoi intervention was delivered to two schools (n =267 ) with two matched schools acting as control across the 2015/16 academic school year. This intervention structure consisted of an Energiser supporting the school personnel to implement an intervention aimed at reducing sedentary behaviour, increasing physical activity and improving nutritional knowledge among participating children. Intervention components included, provision of resources to encourage PA, modelling of PA sessions - (“Huff and Puff’), and delivery of a 6 week ST initiative titled ‘Get Up and Move’. All data was collected for post intervention analysis and subgroup comparisons. A one way between group analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to compare the changes in the intervention group relative to the control group while controlling for baseline values.

1.3 Results

Study one examined SB (level & type) and its relationship with markers of health in 6 and 10 year old Irish children. It was found that participating children spent 8.5±1.18 hours/ day (66%) of wear time sedentary. Ten year olds reported higher levels of SB on weekdays and weekends compared to 6 year old children (p <.05). Positive associations were found between SB and waist to height ratio, cardiovascular fitness and BP for 10 year olds (p<.05). This trend was not evident for 6 year old children.

Study two measured the effectiveness of Project Spraoi intervention on the levels of SB and markers of health of 6 and 10 year old children. A statistically significant decrease in the intervention groups’ overall ST was found (6 year olds: -32.59 ± 0.10, p =.03; 10 year olds: -44.97 ±25.48 p =.02). Ten year old children in the control group were also found to significantly decrease levels of SB (p <.05). Similar changes were evident in markers of health between the intervention and control groups. Among 6 year olds the intervention cohorts’ waist-height ratio from baseline to the end of the intervention revealed a significant decrease (n=57, p=<0.05).

1.4 Conclusion

Irish children spend a significant proportion of their day sedentary with higher levels of SB found among 10 year old children. Levels of SB were found to decrease among participants in the intervention group, however similar changes were found in the control group. The time of the year when this measurement took place might have impacted on these findings and future research should aim to carry out measurements in control and intervention group concurrently.

A multi-faceted intervention can improve children’s waist-height ratio, however the effects of the intervention on their levels of SB and other subsequent health markers remains unclear.

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