The feasibility and acceptability of a classroom-based physical activity program for children attending specialist schools: a mixed-methods pilot study

Chloe Emonson, Nicole Papadopoulos, Nicole Rinehart, Ana Mantilla, Ian Fuelscher, Lynne M. Boddy, Caterina Pesce, Jane McGillivray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Children with disabilities often engage in less than the recommended amount of daily physical activity (PA). Classroom-based PA breaks are a favourable method of promoting PA for children. However, evaluations of these programs in specialist schools are scarce, with even less research into their feasibility and acceptability. This may hinder effective implementation and program scalability. This pilot study investigated the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a classroom-based PA break program in Australian specialist school classrooms, using the Australian Joy of Moving (AJoM) program. Methods: Forty primary/junior classes and their teachers across five specialist schools implemented the AJoM program for eight weeks as the intervention group within a pilot cluster randomised controlled trial. A mixed-methods design investigated classroom teachers’ (N = 22; 6 males, 16 females) perspectives of the feasibility and acceptability of the program after implementation through semi-structured telephone interviews (n = 7 teachers), qualitative survey responses (n = 18 teachers) and quantitative survey items (n = 19 teachers). Qualitative data were analysed using predominantly deductive thematic analysis. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Results: Classroom-based PA breaks may be feasible for getting children with disabilities more active at school. However, considerable variation exists in teachers’ perception of the AJoM experience. While several teachers indicate that the program content could be pertinent for their class, common divergences in perceptions of feasibility and acceptability appear to relate to the age and developmental level or needs of the students in the class. Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence for the feasibility and acceptability of implementing classroom-based PA breaks in specialist schools. However, results demonstrate the importance of (1) allowing a high level of flexibility in the design and implementation of programs to meet the varying needs of class groups and (2) providing a large variety of resources to cater to the heterogeneity of the children. Trial registration: This trial was prospectively registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12619000193178) on 11 February 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40
Number of pages19
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Acceptability
  • Active break
  • Class
  • Disability
  • Feasibility
  • Primary school
  • Special needs

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