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Framework for the design and delivery of organized physical activity sessions for children and adolescents:… Lubans, David R; Lonsdale, Chris; Cohen, Kristen; Eather, Narelle; Beauchamp, Mark R; Morgan, Philip J; Sylvester, Benjamin D; Smith, Jordan J Feb 23, 2017

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REVIEW Open AccessFramework for the design and delivery oforganized physical activity sessions forchildren and adolescents: rationale anddescription of the ‘SAAFE’ teachingprinciplesDavid R. Lubans1*, Chris Lonsdale2, Kristen Cohen1, Narelle Eather1, Mark R. Beauchamp3, Philip J. Morgan1,Benjamin D. Sylvester4 and Jordan J. Smith1AbstractThe economic burden of inactivity is substantial, with conservative estimates suggesting the global cost to healthcare systems is more than US$50 billion. School-based programs, including physical education and school sport,have been recommended as important components of a multi-sector, multi-system approach to address physicalinactivity. Additionally, community sporting clubs and after-school programs (ASPs) offer further opportunities foryoung people to be physically active outside of school. Despite demonstrating promise, current evidence suggestsschool-based physical activity programs, community sporting clubs and ASPs are not achieving their full potential.For example, physical activity levels in physical education (PE) and ASP sessions are typically much lower thanrecommended. For these sessions to have the strongest effects on young people’s physical activity levels and theiron-going physical literacy, they need to improve in quality and should be highly active and engaging. This paperpresents the Supportive, Active, Autonomous, Fair, Enjoyable (SAAFE) principles, which represent an evidence-basedframework designed to guide the planning, delivery and evaluation of organized physical activity sessions in school,community sport and ASPs. In this paper we provide a narrative and integrative review of the conceptual andempirical bases that underpin this framework and highlight implications for knowledge translation and application.Keywords: Motivation, Fitness, Enjoyment, Self-determination theory, Physical education, Teaching, CoachingBackgroundRegular physical activity provides numerous physical andmental health benefits [1, 2]. However, global prevalencedata suggest few children and adolescents accrue enoughphysical activity required to obtain these benefits [3],which may have both immediate and long-term publichealth consequences [4–6]. The economic burden of in-activity is substantial, with conservative estimates sug-gesting the global cost to health care systems in 2013was US$53.8 billion [7]. In light of the global reach andpotential health impacts, physical inactivity has been ap-propriately described as ‘pandemic’ [8].School-based programs, including physical education(PE) and school sport have been recommended as import-ant components of a multi-sector, multi-system approachto physical activity promotion [9–11]. Indeed, schools areideal settings for physical activity promotion, as they haveaccess to youth and often possess the facilities, equipment,and personnel required to deliver PE curricula and otherprograms [11]. Outside of schools, community sports andafter-school programs (ASPs) offer further opportunitiesfor young people to be physically active. In the UnitedStates, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, be-tween half and two-thirds of school-aged youth participatein organized sports outside of school [12]. The frequency* Correspondence: david.lubans@newcastle.edu.au1Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School ofEducation, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Callaghan2308, NSW, AustraliaFull list of author information is available at the end of the article© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link tothe Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver(http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.Lubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutritionand Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 DOI 10.1186/s12966-017-0479-xand duration of school- and community-based ASPs variesconsiderably within and between countries, from an houronce or twice per week to five afternoons per week for 2–3 h at a time [13, 14]. However, in 2014 ASPs wereattended by over ten million children in the United States[13]. Each of these settings are important for providingyoung people with opportunities to experience a routine‘dose’ of physical activity [15]. However, it is also importantto recognize their value for achieving affective, motiv-ational, psychosocial and movement skill outcomes [16].Such outcomes have obvious short-term benefits, but mayalso help to develop ‘physical literacy’ and thereby supportlifelong physical activity participation [17].Despite demonstrating promise, evidence suggestsschools, community sporting clubs and ASPs are notachieving their full potential. For example, physical ac-tivity levels in these settings are typically much lowerthan recommended [18–20], and a considerable propor-tion of students leave school without having masteredbasic fundamental movement skills [21]. This is likelyexacerbated by the fact that many of those charged withdelivering PE, sports practice, or ASPs have not receivedthe training needed to confidently deliver active, en-gaging and educative physical activity experiences [11].The contribution of youth sports to habitual physical ac-tivity may also not be as large as commonly thought[22–24]. In a recent study of Danish primary school stu-dents [22], differences in objectively assessed physicalactivity between sports participants and their non-sporting peers were large for soccer and handball. How-ever, participation in basketball, volleyball and gymnas-tics contributed little to overall physical activity levels,and students participating in these sports were no morelikely to meet physical activity guidelines than non-sporting youth [22].Increasing physical activity is not the only outcome thatcould be improved within these settings. Common fea-tures of PE teacher practice, such as using controlling lan-guage (e.g., terms like ‘must’, ‘should’ or ‘have to’ thatconvey pressure and/or coerce individuals to act in waysthat are inconsistent with their sense of self), or using ex-ercise as punishment, can have immediate and long-termimpacts on students’ motivation to be active [25–29].Similarly, sports participation can be instrumental in thephysical, social and emotional development of childrenand adolescents [30]. Yet, the quality of instruction fromsports coaches is highly variable, and not all youngstershave positive experiences with sport [31–34]. Indeed, attri-tion rates for sports participation are substantial [35], par-ticularly during the teenage years, and ‘lack of enjoyment’and ‘problems with the coach’ are commonly cited reasonsfor drop-out [36, 37]. Evidently, there is scope to improvethe quality of instruction across each of these organizedphysical activity settings [23, 38].At present, knowledge from the fields of education,psychology and public health is fragmented, making itdifficult for practitioners (i.e., teachers, coaches and in-structors) to know which evidence-based strategies theyshould be implementing. Moreover, this knowledge isoften communicated in a manner intended for a special-ist audience, within scholarly publications that are eitherunknown to practitioners or difficult to access due tothe cost of subscriptions. There is a need to consolidatethe evidence from these various disciplines into a set ofguiding principles, using a practical format and simplerecommendations that are ‘sticky’ and easy for practi-tioners to understand and apply.Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to describe theSupportive, Active, Autonomous, Fair, and Enjoyable(SAAFE) delivery principles (Fig. 1), an evidence-basedframework designed to guide the planning, delivery, andevaluation of organized physical activity sessions in school,after-school, and community sports settings (hereafter re-ferred to as organized physical activity sessions). TheSAAFE principles were informed by self-determinationtheory [39, 40], achievement goal theory [41], competencemotivation theory [42, 43] and Epstein’s TARGET frame-work [Task (design of activities), Authority (distribution ofdecision-making and student autonomy), Recognition (useof incentives, rewards and feedback), Grouping (formationof students into groups), Evaluation (methods used to as-sess performance) and Time (appropriateness of workloadand lesson pace)] [44, 45]. It should be noted, the SAAFEframework is not the result of a systematic process of evi-dence synthesis, but rather the product of a large body ofempirical evidence, as well as years of collective experi-ence working with teachers, coaches and other physicalactivity practitioners delivering interventions to youngpeople.We acknowledge that self-determination theory in par-ticular is being used by researchers and teachers aroundthe world to guide the delivery of organized physical activ-ity sessions [46–48], and guidelines for increasing physicalactivity in such sessions have emerged in the literature[49, 50]. Indeed, ‘LET US Play’ (Lines, Elimination, Teamsize, Uninvolved staff or kids, Space, equipment and rules)[50] and ‘SHARP’ (Stretching whilst moving, High repeti-tion of motor skills, Accessibility through differentiation,Reducing sitting and standing, Promoting in class physicalactivity) [49] are both useful guides for enhancing activelearning time within physical activity sessions. However,these guidelines do not address issues related to motiv-ational climates embedded within sessions. We considerthe SAAFE principles to be unique as they address themotivational needs of students and the issue of low phys-ical activity levels in organized sessions using a pragmaticset of principles that are easy for teachers to understandand implement.Lubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 2 of 11The SAAFE principles were originally designed to pro-mote a psychologically supportive environment, foster amastery climate and enhance young people’s autonomousmotivation in the Supporting Children’s Outcomes usingRewards, Exercise and Skills (SCORES) primary schoolphysical activity intervention [51, 52]. Our efficacy studyshowed the SCORES intervention had positive effects onstudents’ physical activity levels, cardiorespiratory fitnessand fundamental movement skills [51]. We are currentlytesting the effectiveness of a scalable version of theSCORES intervention, called iPLAY (internet-based Pro-fessional Learning to help teachers promote Physical activ-ity in Youth) [53]. The SAAFE principles have also sinceevolved to support the delivery of school-based physicalactivity interventions targeting adolescents [54–56].The following section includes a description, rationaleand recommended strategies for each of the five SAAFEprinciples. Practical examples for how practitioners canimplement the SAAFE principles are summarized inTable 1. Finally, Table 2 outlines how the SAAFE princi-ples have been applied in three recent school-basedphysical activity interventions: (i) the SCORES physicalactivity and movement skills intervention for primaryschool children [51, 52], (ii) the ATLAS (Active TeenLeaders Avoiding Screen-time) physical activity programfor low-active adolescent boys [55, 57, 58], and (iii) theHIIT for Teens (High-Intensity Interval Training forTeens) program, involving the integration of vigorousintensity activity into PE lessons [54, 59].SupportiveSocial context is integral to learning and motivation ineducational settings [60] and is largely shaped byteachers’ language, behaviors and expectations. From aself-determination theory perspective, teachers can influ-ence their students’ motivation by supporting or thwart-ing basic psychological needs for: (i) Autonomy, the needto experience one’s behavior as self-endorsed or vol-itional; (ii) Competence, the need to effectively interactwith one’s environment and achieve positive outcomes;and (iii) Relatedness, the need to feel supported and con-nected with others [39, 40, 61].The Supportive principle recommends that both practi-tioners and young people facilitate a supportive environ-ment during physical activity sessions. In a supportiveenvironment, practitioners provide a range of safe, chal-lenging and enjoyable learning opportunities that nurturestudents’ needs, interests, choices, curiosities and prefer-ences; and enable them to experience success [39, 62–66].Practitioners who are facilitative (rather than controlling)are perceived as being autonomy-supportive by students[66]. These teachers are able to take the perspective oftheir students, provide a rationale for what they are doing,create meaningful connections, use language that is notstrict or controlling, and demonstrate emotional supportor involvement (e.g., displaying care, empathy, friendli-ness, understanding, dedication, and dependability) [60,66–69].By contrast, a performance climate promotes the per-ception that superior performances or winning are themost highly valued outcomes [67, 70–72]. An unsup-portive or controlling physical activity environment un-dermines positive functioning because it elicits feelingsof pressure, judgement, and threat among students [63,66, 73]. In a controlling environment, teachers may beperceived as emotionally closed, and exhibit behaviorsthat interfere with or bypass students’ inner motives (inan attempt to control what students should think, feel,and do). They may even try to build extrinsic motivationby offering incentives or threatening consequences,using authoritarian language or neglecting students whodemonstrate negative affect [66, 74]. Teachers may attimes defer to controlling instructional styles as a meansof managing ill-discipline or misbehavior. However, priorFig. 1 Overview of SAAFE teaching principlesLubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 3 of 11evidence suggests supportive instructional practices re-sult in students being better adjusted and more engagedin school [75]. Consequently, we believe there is suffi-cient empirical support to suggest applying the ‘Support-ive’ principle is also a useful approach for preventingstudent misbehavior.The effective use of feedback in organized physical ac-tivities can also greatly impact students’ motivation, en-gagement, enjoyment and persistence in a task,perceptions of competence, interest in physical activity,motor skill acquisition, and future participation [43, 63,76–81]. In this context, feedback refers to informationgiven about a performance, and relates to the extent towhich the outcome of the performance corresponds toexpectations [82]. Providing clear and consistent positiveinformational and prescriptive feedback to students im-mediately after a performance (rather than controllingor negative feedback), helps to create a supportive phys-ical activity learning environment [83]. Positive feedbackis considered to be most effective when: (i) it is per-ceived by the learner as honest, (ii) success is attributedto effort and strategy rather than innate ability, (iii) it re-inforces improvement and learning rather than socialcomparison, (iv) is delivered privately rather than pub-licly (where possible), and (v) the criteria needed to gainpositive feedback are specific and achievable, and aremade explicit to learners beforehand [79]. Importantly,the amount and nature of feedback should be adjustedto suit the experience and skill level of the performer(i.e., novice learners will typically require more frequentfeedback and encouragement) [84]. Moreover, feedbackshould be used judiciously, as some learners may enjoythe challenge of improving their performances withoutassistance.ActiveOur Active principle suggests that physical activity ses-sions should involve high levels of physical activity andminimal transition time. It is important to note that or-ganized physical activity sessions can have direct and in-direct effects on young people’s physical activity levelsand both should be considered when designing sessions.The direct benefits refer to the ‘dose’ of physical activityprovided within sessions, while the indirect benefits re-late to additional activity that occurs outside of the ses-sions resulting from the motivation, knowledge, andskills acquired. The Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) [85] has previously recommendedthat students should be engaged in MVPA for at least50% of PE lesson time. Similarly, the National Instituteon Out-of-School Time recommend that ASPs dedicate30 min (or 20%) of program time to physical activity op-portunities, and that at least 50% of this scheduled timebe spent in MVPA [86].Yet, activity levels in PE and other organized sessionsare often low. For example, recent systematic reviews ofstudies examining activity levels in PE have found thatstudents engage in activity for approximately 40% oflesson time in primary [87] and secondary [88] schoollessons (ranging from 57.6 to 32.6% when assessed usingTable 1 SAAFE principles and recommended strategiesPrinciples Example strategiesSupportive • Provide individual skill specific feedback• Support feelings of autonomy, competence,and social connection• Provide praise on student effort and improvement• Acknowledge and reward good sportspersonship• Demonstrate empathy toward students who appearfrustrated or challengedActive • Optimize session structure and activity selection(e.g., small-sided games, multiple games/gridsand minimal lines)• Avoid elimination activities• Include an active warm-up• Integrate high-intensity ‘bursts’ of activity within typicalgames and lesson activities• Employ circuits and rotations• Complete student registration while students are active• Reduce transition time by setting up activities whilestudents are active• Minimize teacher talk and instructions• Maximize equipment available (e.g., every studentwith a ball)Autonomous • Provide students with opportunities for choice• Include free play at the start of sessions• Involve students in creation and modification of activitiesand rules• Provide a meaningful rationale for the different activities• Minimize controlling languageFair • Ensure that students are evenly matched in activities• Modify activities to maximize students’ opportunitiesfor success• Encourage self-comparison rather than peer-comparison• De-emphasize competition (e.g. implement point systemthat rewards team values and not winning)• Regularly change teams/partners (if necessary) to ensureeveryone experiences successEnjoyable • Design activities with which students can exhibit choice,feel competent, and also interact with others (e.g., groupactivities)• Start and conclude sessions with an enjoyable activity• Ensure that sessions involve a variety of tasks/activities• Do not use exercise as punishment• Use self-selected and motivational music whileexercisingLubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 4 of 11direct observation and accelerometers). Fewer studieshave examined activity levels in ASPs and communitysport, but the available evidence suggests that they arenot reaching their potential. For example, Beets and col-leagues [18] reviewed 25 diverse ASPs in the UnitedStates and found that only 16.5% of daily observationssatisfied the physical activity target (i.e., at least 4600steps).Recently, Lonsdale and colleagues [89] published a sys-tematic review and meta-analysis of interventions aimedat increasing MVPA during PE lessons. Previous interven-tions have resulted, on average, in a 24% relative increasein the amount of lesson time spent in MVPA. Strategies toincrease activity levels in PE can be classified into threebroad categories: (i) reducing transition time (e.g., minim-izing teacher talk, having more efficient transitions), (ii)maximizing opportunities for activity (e.g., selecting activegames, removing elimination), and (iii) fitness infusion(e.g., integrating high-intensity ‘bursts’ of activity withintypical games and lesson activities). ‘Fitness infusion’ wasfound to be the most effective strategy (61% more MVPAtime compared with 14% increase associated with otherinterventions) [89]. However, it stands to reason thatimplementing all of these strategies concurrently will re-sult in the greatest increase in active learning time.Activity-promoting instructional strategies have alsobeen implemented within organized sport [90] and ASPsettings [91]. For example, Weaver and colleagues [50]designed the ‘LET US Play’ (Lines, Elimination, Teamsize, Uninvolved staff and children, Space, equipmentand rules) principles, which have been used to guide thepractice of PE teachers and after-school program staffresponsible for delivering games and activities to youth.LET US Play is a useful framework for planning andconducting physical activity sessions, and previous re-search has shown significant improvements in children’sphysical activity in programs when these principles havebeen applied [92, 93]. Similar instructional practicesformed a key part of the HEALTHY school-based inter-vention [94]. As part of the PE-based component ofHEALTHY, teachers were provided with an activity pro-moting lesson plan, and simple instructional strategiesto maximize active time during lessons [95].AutonomousThe Autonomous principle is focused on the importanceof providing students with choice and being offeredgraded tasks. Many psychological theories highlight thesignificance of perceived competence and social supportfor motivation and the development of behavioral inten-tions [41–43, 96]. However, self-determination theory isnoteworthy in emphasizing the critical importance ofperceived ‘autonomy’. Self-determination theory positsthat autonomy is a fundamental psychological needTable 2 Examples of the SAAFE teaching principles applied in school-based physical activity interventionsPrinciple Scores Atlas HIIT for TeensSupportive Teachers learnt about fundamentalmovement skills and were instructedto provide students with skill specificfeedback to improve students’ motorskill proficiency.Teachers were instructed to providestudents with a rationale for improvingtheir muscular fitness during ATLASsessions.‘Trainer of the Day’ certificates were awardedto the student who provided their trainingpartner with the highest quality socialsupport during the HIIT session.Active Teachers were encouraged to replacefull-sided games (e.g., soccer) withsmall-sided modified games.Teachers were provided with circuit cardsdescribing body weight and Gymstick™(elastic resistance training devices) exercisesto ensure that all students could be activelyengaged during sessions.HIIT sessions were embedded into existing PElessons for 8-weeks. HIIT sessions included30 s of high intensity activity followed by 30 sof rest (while training partner completed thetask).Autonomous Students were provided with leadershiproles (e.g., running activities, setting upand collecting equipment) in PE, schoolsport and at lunch-time.Students were encouraged to completeone HIRT workout (i.e., short durationCrossFit-style fitness challenge) each sessionand could select the level of difficulty (Easy,Moderate or Hard).Students completed the HIIT sessions with apartner of their choice and were providedwith options regarding exercise selection(e.g., running on the spot or jumping jacks)during sessions.Fair Teachers were instructed to monitor andmodify lessons (i.e., rules and teams) toensure that games were not dominatedby the most competent students.Teachers were instructed to monitorpartner fitness challenges (e.g., shoulderwrestle activity) to ensure that studentswere evenly matched.Students wore heart rate monitors duringsessions and were encouraged (by trainingpartners and teachers) to achieve >85% oftheir heart rate maximum. This objective wasconsidered achievable for all students assuccess was based on effort not absolutefitness.Enjoyable Teachers were instructed to avoid boringand repetitive warm-ups (e.g., runningaround the field) and replace them withenjoyable starter games.Sessions provided students withopportunities to enhance their resistancetraining skill proficiency using a variety ofteaching approaches including teacher-led,peer-led, and self-directed pedagogies.High tempo music was played during HIITsessions to enhance affect, reduce ratings ofperceived exertion, and improve energyefficiency.Abbreviations: SCORES Supporting Children’s Outcomes using Rewards, Exercise and Skills, ATLAS Active Teen Leaders Avoiding Screen-time, HIIT High IntensityInterval Training, HIRT high intensity resistance trainingLubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 5 of 11influencing motivation, behavior, and wellbeing [97].The theory suggests that in addition to perceived com-petence and social connection, supporting perceptionsof autonomy will promote autonomous forms of motiv-ation, which in turn predict behavioral engagement andpersistence. Autonomous motivation refers to a highquality, volitional type of motivation characterized byengaging in behavior that is valued, personally relevant,and enjoyable [39]. Within the physical activity context,previous research has shown that autonomous forms ofmotivation are more strongly associated with physicalactivity behavior than controlled forms [98]. Controlledmotivation refers to engaging in behavior due to internalor external pressures (e.g., lunch-time detention) [39].Within the SAAFE framework, the Autonomous principlefocuses largely on the importance of choice, alongside theelements of autonomy-supportive teaching (e.g., providinga rationale and taking the perspective of the student) align-ing with the Supportive principle previously described. Con-sistent evidence across many life contexts indicates thatpeople who perceive they can make meaningful choices arelikely to be intrinsically motivated, meaning that they aremore likely to find activities enjoyable and interesting [99].Within physical activity contexts, in particular, studentswho perceive that they have greater choice also are moreintrinsically motivated and ascribe greater value to physicalactivity compared with students who feel their autonomy isundermined [100]. Experimental evidence shows that pro-viding students with the opportunity to select their activ-ities from a range of options provided by the teacherincreases their total physical activity during PE lessons[101, 102]. Furthermore, providing students with brief pe-riods of complete free choice increases their MVPA com-pared with a lesson led by the teacher [101, 102]. Free playfor children is an important end in itself, but also promotesa variety of positive social, emotional and cognitive out-comes. Promoting free play is perhaps even more valuablein an era of increasing urbanization and fearful parentingpractices [103, 104].The number of ways in which choice can be incorpo-rated into physical activity sessions are likely only lim-ited by the teachers’ imagination. Table 1 outlines waysin which teachers have been encouraged to providechoice in our recent interventions. Along with thesepossibilities, we also suggest that teachers carefully con-sider the way in which they provide opportunities forstudents to make choices and decisions. For example,we recommend that teachers avoid providing too manyoptions, as students may find this burdensome and de-motivating [105]. Based on meta-analytic evidence [99],two to four opportunities for choice within a session isideal. When offering opportunities for complete freechoice, we suggest somewhere between 5 and 10 min atthe start of a session is a sufficient amount of time forstudents to play without direct instruction, and this dur-ation enables teachers time to set up and structure activ-ities that are linked to the core objectives of the session.The ‘types’ of choices that are offered to studentsshould be considered carefully. Allowing student cap-tains to select team members during PE could be viewedas supporting choice. However, the experience of beingselected last can be traumatizing for students, and theseexperiences may have prolonged adverse impacts onphysical activity participation [106]. Consequently, acommon-sense approach, that also considers the poten-tial harms of enabling certain choices, should be appliedwhen planning for the provision of choice. Importantly,practitioners should provide both ‘option choice’ (e.g.,selection of activity) and ‘action choice’ (e.g., control ofthe pace of task progression). Although option choicemight be easier to plan and deliver, previous researchsuggests action choice is more effective for enhancingintrinsic motivation [107]. In light of this, it is importantthat instructors not rely on option choice alone as ameans of providing autonomy support.FairOur Fair principle is concerned with providing all stu-dents with opportunities to experience success in thephysical domain. It is important to note that success (mas-tery) and having fun (enjoyment) are not synonymousconstructs/outcomes (although both are inter-related),and that both are important targets for promoting physicalactivity engagement. Consistent with the idea of a masteryclimate, we view success to be synonymous with personalimprovement and not satisfaction of an absolute level ofphysical performance. PE classes, youth sporting teams,and ASP groups will often include individuals across thecontinuum of physical ability. Despite this, the manner inwhich teachers plan and deliver physical activities canhave an impact on perceptions of fairness among partici-pating youth. Perceptions of fairness have been shown toinfluence motivation and affective learning [108], enjoy-ment [109] and intentions to continue participating insports [109, 110]. Consequently, it is critical that teachersconsider how their practices either support or underminethese perceptions.Competition is a core component of many physical ac-tivities, and introducing competition can make activitiesmotivating and engaging (assuming that success appearsachievable for all). Although competing in team gamesrequires youth to demonstrate a number of desirable be-haviors (e.g., cooperation, communication, effort etc.),students typically equate competition purely with win-ning and losing [111]. It is therefore important forteachers to use competition judiciously, and to considerwhether their instructions and feedback are promoting aperformance climate (i.e., a narrow ‘win or lose’ view ofLubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 6 of 11competition is reinforced) or mastery climate (e.g., effortand personal improvement are valued over winning). Ofnote, there is considerable developmental variability amongyoung people of the same chronological age [112], whichhas important implications for mastery experiences duringcompetitive activities, and subsequently on the develop-ment of physical self-concept. Evidence from elite sporthas demonstrated the ‘relative age effect’ is a worldwidephenomenon that exists in many competitive sports,whereby children born early in the competition year have acompetitive advantage over their younger peers [113, 114].To promote fairness, teachers are encouraged to considermaturational differences, particularly for youth near thepubertal period where such differences become increas-ingly pronounced. Although maturational differences can-not be prevented, practitioners can be cognizant of theinfluence of differences in size, speed or strength when or-ganizing competitive tasks, providing feedback to youth, orpraising successful performance.Equity is important in coeducational physical activitycontexts, as the physical and experiential advantage thatboys often possess can disadvantage their female peers[115]. Indeed, the dominance of boys in activities duringcoeducational PE has been identified as a key barrier to fe-male participation and enjoyment [116]. Such differencesmay be one factor explaining why girls typically enjoy PEless and experience greater declines in PE enjoyment overtime, compared with boys [117]. There is evidence to sug-gest that reinforcing a mastery climate in PE is a usefulway for teachers to enhance students’ experiences and per-ceptions of equity, regardless of biological sex [118]. Werecommend that teachers deliver a diverse range of activ-ities that appeal to all students, regardless of their abilitylevels and motivation. Of note, fear of negative socialevaluation and teasing from boys commonly discouragesgirls from participating in coeducational PE lessons [116].Moreover, single sex groups have been shown to result ingreater participation among girls, and more frequent ver-bal feedback to girls from the teacher [119]. Therefore, theseparation of classes into single-sex groups and/or allow-ing students to select the level of competition in game-based activities (i.e., students can choose to participate in arecreational or competitive game), might be useful for sup-porting girls’ participation.Students with physical and intellectual disabilities areoften disadvantaged in physical activity contexts. Mobility,vision, and hearing impairments are obvious impedimentsto the successful performance of physical activities. Inaddition, motor coordination deficits are a hallmark fea-ture of intellectual and developmental disabilities such asautism spectrum disorder and dyspraxia [120]. Of con-cern, the physical activity experiences of many studentswith a disability include outright exclusion, tokenistic in-clusion (e.g., role as line judge or score keeper), and unfairperformance expectations [121]. To promote the equitabletreatment of all youth in physical activity sessions, it iscritical that teachers adapt activities to suit their variousneeds. We recommend that teachers plan for and deliveradapted physical activities that enable all students to dem-onstrate success and progress, regardless of their level ofability. To emphasize, ‘success’ in this context refers tostriving for and experiencing personal improvement, re-gardless of the absolute level of performance, as notedpreviously. Modifications could include changes to thedistance from or size of a target, the use of different equip-ment (e.g., a larger bat or ball) in drills or games, andchanges to game rules that level the playing field for allstudents (e.g., playing blindfolded games such as ‘goal-ball’), or at least support participation of students with dis-abilities (e.g., passive defense rule for student with amobility impairment playing basketball).It is also recognized that the level of expertise requiredto adapt lessons for students with disabilities is challen-ging for many teachers. However, in some countries(e.g., Australia), students with special educational needsare integrated into mainstream classes. Therefore, pro-fessional learning, and/or additional trained support staffmay be needed to facilitate adapted lesson delivery. Out-side of these training opportunities, teachers and in-structors can actively consult with learners and theirparents/carers to determine appropriate and feasiblemodifications that can be made during lessons, and todemonstrate to youth with disabilities that they are notbeing forgotten in these physical activity contexts.EnjoyableThe Enjoyable principle directly aligns with prominenttheories of motivation, which purport that people tendto persist with activities they find intrinsically motivating[122]. When people pursue physical activities (or indeedany other activity) for the inherent joy and pleasure, theyare said to be intrinsically motivated which, in turn,tends to result in greater adherence to and pursuit ofthose behaviors [123, 124]. Indeed, enjoyment has beena consistently reported mediator/mechanism of the ef-fects of efficacious physical activity interventions amongyouth [25, 125].In terms of the (social) conditions that promote physicalactivity enjoyment, research from different theoretical per-spectives point to a consistent cluster of strategies thatthose concerned with physical activity promotion can har-ness. From the perspective of self-determination theory[122], and as highlighted under the Supportive principle,when children and adolescents feel autonomous, sociallyconnected to others, and competent they are more likely toenjoy the activity [100]. In the context of youth sport [126]and PE [46, 127], when children and adolescents are pro-vided with the opportunity to exercise some choice, theyLubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 7 of 11tend to report greater engagement, greater future intentionsfor physical activity, and greater persistence in the activity[128]. Similarly, when youth feel socially connected to theircoach or other children in a class or sports team [129] theytend to have greater satisfaction and positive emotions. Fi-nally, when social agents such as coaches and teachersstructure the physical activity environment to maximizefeelings of competence and personal mastery, children aremore likely to enjoy the activity, maintain interest in in-volvement, and commitment to the activity [43].In addition to those strategies that enable youth to feelautonomous, competent, and socially connected to thosewithin their social milieu, recent research has sought toexamine the efficacy of other strategies and psycho-logical experiences that might translate into peopleenjoying physical activity to a greater extent [130]. Forexample, when children are provided with a greater var-iety of exercise equipment (compared to less variety) ina single bout of exercise, they report greater enjoymentof that exercise, and participate in more exercise behav-ior [131, 132]. Furthermore, using an experimental de-sign, Sylvester and colleagues found that when a 6-weekexercise program was structured to involve greater var-iety (otherwise known as variety support), participantssubsequently experienced greater adherence [133], aswell as improved psychological well-being (greater posi-tive affect and subjective vitality and lower negativeaffect) [134] than those participants randomized to aprogram that was devoid of such variety.In addition to lab-based studies, recent examination ofthe Pokemon Go phenomenon (the most downloadedgame in US history) has pointed to the provision of varietywithin its platform that fosters such high usage of thisexergame [135]. Other (non-experimental) work has simi-larly examined the role of novelty in PE settings, and foundthat novelty is associated with intrinsic motivation [136].Finally, an adjunct strategy that appears to demonstrateconsiderable appeal in supporting physical activity partici-pation is the use of music. When utilized independently(i.e., without physical activity), and as is evident from themillions of people that report enjoying it, music has con-sistently been found to foster improvements in affectivestates [137]. When coupled with repetitive and aerobic (en-durance-type) physical activities, the use of self-selectedand motivational music has been found to result in im-provements in affective responses [138]. These effects areparticularly pronounced when used with self-paced exer-cise. We recommend the use of music, where appropriate(e.g., during fitness circuits), to enhance engagement butalso caution against this strategy if the distracting effects ofmusic might undermine the learning objectives. As a finalnote, when asked what they want from a physical activityintervention, youth emphasize the critical importance of‘fun’ [139, 140]. These findings point to a cautionary noteagainst using physical activity as a form of punishment. As-sociating physical activity with punishment is unlikely topromote a sense of fun, and may undermine the feelingthat physical activity is an avenue for pursuing enjoyment.ConclusionsAs identified in recent reviews [141], there is a clear needfor the effective dissemination of evidence-based physicalactivity strategies. Recommended strategies include: creat-ing partnerships with educational authorities to deliver pro-fessional learning workshops for teachers, presentations atpractitioner conferences, increased focus on interventiondissemination and scaling-up research, and imbeddingevidence-based pedagogical practices in pre-service teachereducation courses. The SAAFE principles and practicalstrategies have been designed to enable practitioners to de-liver engaging physical activity sessions to youth, in a man-ner that maximizes physical activity participation andpromotes physical literacy by enhancing affective, cognitive,motivational, and movement skill outcomes. Teachers, coa-ches, facilitators and instructors are encouraged to: (i) beSupportive in their teaching, (ii) maximize students’ oppor-tunities to be physically Active, (iii) create an Autonomouslearning environment by including elements of choice andproviding a rationale for activities, (iv) design and deliverlesson experiences that are Fair by allowing all students toexperience success regardless of their physical abilities, and(v) provide an Enjoyable experience by focusing on fun andvariety.AcknowledgementsThe authors would like to thank the schools, principals, teachers and studentsinvolved in the aforementioned studies.FundingNo funding was received to produce this manuscript. DRL is supported byan Australian Research Council Future Fellowship.Availability of data and materialsNot applicable.Authors’ contributionsDRL originally designed and implemented the SAAFE principles for theSCORES physical activity intervention, was responsible for the overall conceptand structure of the manuscript, and drafted the introduction and ‘Active’sections. CL drafted the ‘Autonomous’ section of the manuscript and helpedto develop Fig. 1, which provides an overview of the SAAFE principles. KCwas involved in the original design and implementation of the SAAFEprinciples used within the SCORES physical activity intervention. NE draftedthe ‘Supportive’ section of the manuscript. PJM was involved in the originaldesign and implementation of the SAAFE principles as an investigator onthe SCORES physical activity intervention. MRB and BDS drafted the‘enjoyable’ section of the manuscript. JJS drafted the introduction and ‘fair’sections of the manuscript, and was responsible for editing the final version.All authors provided critical review of the manuscript, and approved the finalversion as presented herein.Competing interestsThe authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.Consent for publicationNot applicable.Lubans et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  (2017) 14:24 Page 8 of 11Ethics approval and consent to participateNot applicable.Author details1Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School ofEducation, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Callaghan2308, NSW, Australia. 2Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Facultyof Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia.3School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Education, The University of BritishColumbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. 4Faculty of Kinesiology and PhysicalEducation, The University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.Received: 1 December 2016 Accepted: 16 February 2017References1. Janssen I, Leblanc AG. Systematic review of the health benefits of physicalactivity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. Int J Behav Nutr PhysAct. 2010;7(40):1–16.2. Lubans D, Richards J, Hillman C, et al. 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