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Effects of out-of-school physical activity interventions based on self-determination theory in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis

This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the impact of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) based interventions on children and adolescents’ physical activity levels and motivational processes, specifically when conducted outside the school environment. Analyzing nine identified studies, this research delved into the effectiveness of these out-of-school interventions, shedding light on their influence on factors like satisfaction of psychological needs, motivation toward physical activity, and actual levels of engagement.

Out-of-School SDT-Based Programs: Research on interventions based on Self-Determination Theory (SDT) outside school settings for children’s physical activity remains limited, with only nine identified studies. This scarcity suggests a need for more comprehensive and diverse research in this area.

Limited Impact on Motivation: Overall, these out-of-school interventions did not significantly enhance feelings of autonomy, competence, relatedness satisfaction, or motivation toward physical activity among children and adolescents. Longer programs involving family participation might be crucial for positive effects.

Questionable Impact on Physical Activity Levels: These interventions did not notably increase participants’ physical activity levels, mirroring the inconclusive findings from previous reviews. The effectiveness of out-of-school programs for boosting physical activity remains uncertain.

Comparison with School-Based Interventions: Interventions conducted within school settings showed better results in enhancing motivation and physical activity levels compared to out-of-school SDT-based interventions. Factors like program duration, intensity, and the involvement of various agents seem pivotal in achieving positive outcomes.Challenges and Future Directions: The less controlled nature of out-of-school interventions targeting already active participants might pose challenges to their effectiveness. Future research should explore different theoretical frameworks’ impacts, conduct subgroup analyses, and focus on strategies to improve the effectiveness of out-of-school programs to promote physical activity among children and adolescents.