UK participation rates for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in young people are low and free swimming has been proposed as an intervention to address inactivity.
PURPOSE: To examine the effect of a community-based free swimming (FS) pilot intervention on MVPA in young people (5-17years) in Southwest England.
METHODS: FS provided a series of programmed aquatic activities in community venues, including diving, water-based youth clubs and play sessions. Participants also received a free swim pass for casual swimming. Health practitioners e.g., General Practitioners and School Nurses could refer inactive young people to FS interventions. After ethical clearance participants completed demographics and MVPA using a validated, population-specific, 7-day self-report. Measurement occurred pre- and post-intervention up to 24 months. Following data cleaning, pre- versus post-intervention median MVPA scores (MET-minutes/week) were calculated. Using UK guidelines, participants were allocated to MVPA categories (sedentary-lightly-moderately-highly active). Cross-tabulation established MVPA change in three categories (reversal, stability and progression).
RESULTS: FS interventions attracted 1144 participants; 242 completed the evaluation (females 57.4%, N=139). For participants at pre-intervention 136 (56.1%) were not meeting guidelines (females 58%, N=79), compared with 47.1% (N=114) post-intervention (females 52.6%, N=60). At post-intervention, improvement in at least one MVPA category was reported by 64.7% (N=88) (females 59%, N=52), who were sedentary or lightly-active (N=136) at pre-intervention. 52.9% (N=128) met minimum physical activity guidelines post-intervention (females, 61.7% N=79).
CONCLUSIONS: FS engaged participants not meeting MVPA guidelines. Comparing pre- with post-intervention MVPA categorization, there was a decrease in the number participants not meeting guidelines. Over half of all participants were meeting physical activity guidelines post-intervention. Despite the limitations of low reporting rates, FS may be an effective community intervention for helping young people increase their MVPA category and for meeting the MVPA guidelines.