Move for well-being in schools – evaluation of a SDT-based intervention

Lars Breum Christiansen, Anne-Didde Holt, Pernille Lund-Cramer, Søren Smedegaard, Thomas Skovgaard

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Title: Move for well-being in schools – evaluation of a SDT-based intervention

Main author: Christiansen, LB, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark,, Campusvej 55, 5210 Odense M, DK

Co-authors: Lund-Cramer, P, Smedegaard, S, Holt, AD, Skovgaard, T.
Affiliation(s): Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

Physical activity at school can improve mental health of all children – especially if it is tailored to students’ needs and conducted in a positive social climate. The purpose of the present study is to quantitively examine the effect of a multicomponent school-based physical activity intervention on physical self-perception and self-worth and qualitatively investigate how the intervention components affect the students’ sense of competence, autonomy and relatedness.

The intervention is based on the Self-Determination Theory and targets physical education, in-class activity and recess. Using a cluster-randomized design, 24 Danish schools were randomized to either intervention or control. Study population included 3.136 students aged 10-13 years at baseline. Student survey was carried out prior to intervention and after 9 months and complemented by ten semi-structured focus group interviews.

A total of 2797 students were included in the quantitative analyses. Physical self-perception and self-worth increased between baseline and follow-up, but there was no significant intervention effect. Exploratory analyses showed a tendency to a more positive intervention effect for groups with lower baseline values. The qualitative analyses showed that the students’ sense of relatedness was fundamental and influenced their sense of competence and autonomy. Changing the physical activity climate to focus on competence development instead of competition was challenging, but resulted in positive experiences, especially for students with limited motivation.

It is a challenge to motivate the least active students to school-based physical activities. The current study center extensively on this group, by focusing on the social climate generated by teachers, and by tailoring activities which ensure positive experiences for all and by involving the students in decision making. A socially inclusive environment was found to be crucial to students’ well-being at school and influenced the sense of competence and autonomy in physical activities.

The findings from the current study support the basic principles of SDT, and point to some practical challenges in implementing such an intervention in a Danish school setting. Building physical self-worth may be an important mediating factor to improve physical activity levels for all children, but is dependent on a positive and supportive social climate.

Holt et al 2018: Pupils’ experiences of autonomy, competence and relatedness in “Move for Well-being in Schools”, European Physical Education Review,

Christiansen et al 2018: Improving children’s physical self-perception through a school-based physical activity intervention: The Move for Well-being in School study, Mental Health and Physical Activity,

Original languageDanish
Publication date23. May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 23. May 2019
Event7th International Self-Determination Theory Conference - Hotel Zuiderduin Egmond aan Zee, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 21. May 201924. May 2019
Conference number: 7th


Conference7th International Self-Determination Theory Conference
LocationHotel Zuiderduin Egmond aan Zee
Internet address

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