The development and feasibility of a randomised family-based physical activity promotion intervention: The Families Reporting Every Step to Health (FRESH) study

Justin M. Guagliano, Helen Elizabeth Brown, Emma Coombes, Claire Hughes, Andrew Jones, Katie L. Morton, Edward Wilson, Esther M. F. van Sluijs

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Background: There is a need for high-quality research aiming to increase physical activity in families. This study assessed the feasibility and acceptability of FRESH (Families Reporting Every Step to Health), a child-led family-based physical activity intervention delivered online.

Methods: In a two-armed randomised feasibility study 12 families (with an 8-10-year-old index child) were allocated to a ‘child-only’ (CO) or ‘family’ arm (FAM) of the theory-based FRESH intervention. Both received access to the FRESH website, allowing participants to select step challenges to ‘travel’ to target cities around the world, log their steps, and track their progress as they virtually globetrot. Only index children wore pedometers in CO; in FAM, all family members wore pedometers and worked toward collective goals. All family members were eligible to participate in the evaluation. Mixed-methods process evaluation (questionnaires and family focus groups) at 6-week follow-up consisted of completing questionnaires assessing acceptability of the intervention and accompanying effectiveness evaluation, focused on physical (e.g., fitness, blood pressure), psychosocial (e.g., social support), and behavioural (e.g., objectively-measured family physical activity) measures.

Results: All families were retained (32 participants). Parents enjoyed FRESH and all children found it fun. More FAM children wanted to continue with FRESH, found the website easy to use, and enjoyed wearing pedometers. FAM children also found it easier to reach goals. Most CO families would have preferred whole family participation. Compared to CO, FAM exhibited greater website engagement as they travelled to more cities (36 ± 11 vs. 13 ± 8) and failed fewer challenges (1.5 ± 1 vs. 3 ± 1). Focus groups also revealed that most families wanted elements of competition. All children enjoyed being part of the evaluation, and adults disagreed that there were too many intervention measures (overall: 2.4 ± 1.3) or that data collection took too long (overall: 2.2 ± 1.1).

Conclusion: FRESH was feasible and acceptable to participating families, however, findings favoured the FAM group. Recruitment, intervention fidelity and delivery, and some measurement procedures are particular areas that require further attention for optimisation. Testing the preliminary effectiveness of FRESH on family physical activity is a necessary next step.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2019


  • Children
  • youth
  • parent
  • mothers
  • fathers
  • mums
  • dads
  • co-participation
  • co-physical activity

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