Sedentary behaviour (e.g., screen time, sitting) is associated with adiposity in children as young as 1 year of age. Yet young children spend large amounts of time in sedentary behaviour, suggesting the need for feasible, effective and scalable interventions. This study aimed to test the feasibility and efficacy of a parent-focused, predominantly mobile telephone-delivered intervention to decrease young children’s sedentary behaviour.
Mini Movers was a pilot randomised controlled trial delivered to parents of 2- to 4-year-old children in Melbourne, Australia. The intervention was 6 weeks in duration and was predominantly delivered via personalised, interactive text messages promoting positive health behaviours (strategies for decreasing screen and sitting time), goal setting and self-monitoring. The primary outcome was intervention feasibility. Secondary outcomes were children’s parent-reported sedentary behaviours (screen time, time spent restrained and sitting time) and objectively assessed sitting time (activPAL™ accelerometers) measured pre- and post-intervention. Linear regression models were used to determine the effect of the intervention, controlling for child sex, age and clustering. Effect sizes (Cohen’s d) were calculated.
Fifty-seven participants (30 intervention; 27 wait-list control) were recruited at baseline. The intervention was feasible and acceptable; 50% of parents reported that the information overall was moderately/extremely useful, with 65% reporting that the text messages were moderately/extremely useful. Parent-reported screen time decreased significantly in the intervention group compared to the control group (adjusted mean difference -35.0, 95% CI -64.1, -5.9; d=0.82). A moderate effect was seen for parent-reported time spent restrained (d=0.48). Small effects were seen for parent-reported and objectively assessed sitting time (d=0.15 and d=0.26, respectively).
Mini Movers was a feasible and potentially efficacious intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour in 2- to 4-year-old children. The use of mobile telephone technology is novel in this population and affords the potential for the intervention to be widely disseminated.