Rural Appalachian populations have poorer health and fewer positive health-related behaviors compared to other United States populations. Appalachians are the most sedentary U.S. population and teens are particularly sedentary. Obesity prevention through improving physical activity is a top priority in Rural Healthy People 2020. Obesity prevalence among Appalachian teens exceeds the national rates of 13.9% and has consistently been greater than 26%. Organized sports has not been effective at improving daily physical activity or health outcomes for Appalachian teens. The purpose of this study is to test the efficacy of a 10-week school-based intervention in promoting self-regulation of physical activity among adolescents not participating in organized sports. By using accelerometers, our study will measure both sedentary time and planned exercise during waking hours.
The design for this four-year study is a group-randomized controlled trial (G-RCT). We will recruit high schools in 3 waves, with 4 in Wave 1, 8 in Wave 2, and 8 in Wave 3, for a total of 20 schools. For each wave of schools, we will randomly assign half of the schools to each condition–intervention (peer-to-peer mentoring [MBA]) and comparison (teacher-led [PBA])–for a total of 10 schools in each of the two conditions by study’s end. We will collect data at baseline (T1), 3 months post intervention (T2), and 6 months post intervention (T3). Linear Mixed Models (LMMs) and Generalized Linear Mixed Models (GLMMs) will be used to test the main hypotheses. Power for this study was based the primary analysis comparing BMI outcomes at T2 between the groups, adjusting for baseline BMI values.
This study provides age-appropriate lifestyle education and skill building. Peer-to-peer mentoring by local high school students and school-based tailored support strengthens sustainable behavioral change. Focusing on unique healthy-lifestyle challenges prevalent in low-resource areas such as Appalachia such as overcoming environmental, social, and psychological barriers may improve adherence to physical activity. Serving as role models, peer mentors may improve their own lifestyle behaviors, providing a dual intervention.