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Physical Activity: Family-Based Interventions


What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF uses recently published systematic reviews to conduct accelerated assessments of interventions that could provide program planners and decision-makers with additional, effective options. The following published review was selected and evaluated by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to increasing physical activity.

Brown HE, Atkin AJ, Panter J, Wong G, Chinapaw MJM, van Sluijs EMF. Family-based interventions to increase physical activity in children: a systematic review, meta-analysis and realist synthesis. Obesity Review 2016;17(4):345-60.

The systematic review included 47 studies (search period through September 2015). The review included a meta-analysis and a realist synthesis. The CPSTF finding is based on the 19 studies used for the meta-analysis.

The CPSTF finding is based on results from the published review, additional information from the meta-analysis, and expert input from team members and the CPSTF.

This review updates and replaces the 2001 CPSTF finding on Family-Based Social Support to Increase Physical Activity pdf icon [PDF - 726 KB].


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people ages 6–17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily (HHS, 2008).

Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the CPSTF Finding and Rationale Statement pdf icon [PDF - 756 KB].

The meta-analysis used as the basis for the CPSTF finding included 19 studies.

  • Physical activity among children in the intervention groups increased by a small but statistically significant amount (19 studies).
  • Studies that directly measured physical activity with accelerometers, pedometers, or direct observation (16 studies) showed slightly greater increases than studies that used self-reported data (3 studies).

Summary of Economic Evidence

A systematic review of economic evidence has not been conducted.


Based on results from the Brown et al. systematic review, findings should be applicable to U.S. families with girls and boys ages 5–12 years.

Evidence Gaps

The CPSTF identified several areas that have limited information. Additional research and evaluation could help answer the following questions and fill remaining gaps in the evidence base. (What are evidence gaps?)

  • How effective are interventions targeted to certain groups based on demographic characteristics (i.e., single-sex interventions)?
  • Which combination of intervention components are most effective?
  • Does the duration of the intervention have an effect?

Study Characteristics

  • Included studies addressed physical activity only (8 studies) or physical activity plus additional behaviors such as dietary habits (11 studies).
  • Intervention strategies included education (19 studies), goal-setting (7 studies), reinforcement of positive health behaviors (4 studies), and role modeling (4 studies). Interventions may have included more than one strategy.
  • Included studies were conducted in the United States (11 studies), the United Kingdom (3 studies), Australia (3 studies), Singapore (1 study), and New Zealand (1 study).
  • Interventions lasted from 8 days to 12 months, and follow-up ranged from 1 to 36 months.
  • Interventions were delivered by community leaders (often selected for their cultural connection to participants), healthcare providers, researchers, or teachers.
  • Settings included schools, afterschool programs, homes, community centers, churches, universities, or research institutes.
  • Programs targeted families with healthy children aged 5–12 years.
  • Five studies included girls only, and the remaining studies included roughly equal numbers of boys and girls.
  • Study populations included children who were all considered to be healthy weight (4 studies), children who were mostly overweight or obese (3 studies), or children whose weight was not reported (12 studies).