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Physical activity promotion: the role of mass-participation sporting events

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posted on 26.06.2019, 14:12 authored by Zoe Mcvinnie
Mass Participation Sporting Events (MPSE) have been identified as having untapped potential for public health by encouraging physical activity through charitable and social motives. However, there is limited research on how to convert this into sustained physical activity behaviour. This thesis aimed to advance the evidence base on the public health potential of MPSEs through a series of connected studies. The first study systematically reviewed existing evidence of MPSEs contributing to physical activity behaviour and other public health benefits. Thirty studies were included (7 prospective cohort studies; 2 randomised controlled trials; 12 cross-sectional surveys; 10 qualitative studies). There were some positive changes in physical activity behaviour, intentions and self-efficacy, but evidence of decreased physical activity post-event also existed. A need for additional high-quality studies was identified, particularly evaluations with longer follow-up periods. Study two followed a prospective cohort longitudinal design to explore changes in physical activity levels of 226 charity 5km walk/run participants 3 months and 12 months post-event. Findings indicated that the majority of participants met physical activity guidelines at the time of their event, yet many did not sustain this behaviour post-event. Pre-event training was a predictor of baseline physical activity, with 3- and 12-month physical activity levels also predicted by previous physical activity behaviour. Study three utilised telephone interviews to qualitatively explore participant experiences of physical activity maintenance and withdrawal post-event in 15 participants. Two major themes emerged relating to event participation (feeling connected and sense of achievement), and two relating to physical activity experiences (goals and reinforcements). The results suggest following a training programme beforehand may lead to a sense of achievement and promote a desire to be physically active following event completion. The final study employed a preference trial design to assess the feasibility of an intervention to assist MPSE participants in maintaining physical activity post-event. Nine participants opted to join a supervised training group for 7-weeks pre-event and 11 followed the same training plan independently. Assessments of physical activity, self-efficacy and social physique anxiety were performed at baseline, post-event, and 3-months post-event. Findings indicated that group training and support led to significant increases in self-efficacy and significant decreases in social physique anxiety. No changes in objectively-measured physical activity were recorded for either group. Collectively these studies suggest that the majority of participants meet physical activity guidelines at the time of their event, yet many do not sustain this behaviour post-event. Future MPSEs may want to offer ways to help lower active participants in pre-event training to build confidence and develop autonomous motivation. Additional strategies such as goal setting, self-regulation and social support could help sustain physical activity behaviour beyond a MPSE.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

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© Zoe McVinnie

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.




Clare Stevinson ; Carolyn Plateau

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