Background: In the EU, approx. 16.5% of the 20–34-year-olds are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). Research shows that good health is an important progression factor towards employment, and daily physical activity as well as participation in sports has a positive effect on physical and mental health as well as in the development of life skill. However, there is an absence of studies investigating what role physical activity can play in the employment efforts. The aim of this study is to investigate experiences with physical activity in employment interventions and to describe the development of a health-promoting employment intervention with physical activity for young people aged 18–30 years who are NEET. Methods: The study combined an evidence-based approach with practice-based experiences. It included a Mapping of Danish employment interventions with physical activity for young people NEET, an overview of national reports and international literature, a workshop with leaders and employees from Danish municipalities, and fieldwork in four municipalities. Key findings were grouped thematically and were transformed into intervention content in a close dialog with relevant researchers and practitioners. Results: In general, physical activity was assessed as a meaningful method when working with young people NEET. A range of positive experiences was highlighted, including successful experiences, surplus of mental resources, new ways of meeting, and new social relations. Based on these findings, a 16-week health-promoting employment intervention, NEXT STEP, was developed with the following intervention components: (1) fixed boundaries, (2) body and physical activity, (3) social relations and network, and (4) life skills and future. NEXT STEP is designed to be implemented in Danish job centers. Conclusion: The study found the great potential of including physical activity in employment interventions for young people NEET. The planning and development of the intervention have reinforced a comprehensive evaluation; however, the first intervention in its entirety is ready for testing in a randomized feasibility trial.
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We wish to thank all the participants in the workshop held in August 2017 and the four municipalities we visited in the autumn and winter of 2017. Special thanks to the Youth House in Slagelse Municipality, especially Rasmus, Lizette, and Tina for their urge to provide us insight into the everyday life of the young people NEET and the procedures in the Danish job centers. We also wish to thank all participants in the Advisory board and other partners for their valuable feedback on the development of NEXT STEP and its design and components.