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Physical activity research: time to scale up!
  1. Jennifer N Baldwin1,2,3,
  2. Marina B Pinheiro1,2,3,
  3. Leanne Hassett1,2,4,
  4. Juliana S Oliveira1,2,3,
  5. Heidi Gilchrist1,2,3,
  6. Adrian E Bauman3,5,
  7. Andrew Milat3,6,
  8. Anne Tiedemann1,2,3,5,
  9. Catherine Sherrington1,2,3,5
  1. 1Sydney Musculoskeletal Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine & Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5WHO Collaboration Centre for Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity, Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, New South Wales Ministry of Health, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catherine Sherrington, Sydney Local Health District, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia; cathie.sherrington{at}

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Despite massive growth in the volume of physical activity research in the past 15 years,1 we are yet to see an improvement in global physical activity levels.2 So how do we enact real, measurable and sustainable change in population physical activity levels? If the goal of the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity of a 15% relative reduction in physical inactivity by 2030 is to be met,3 then a shift in research focus and implementation strategy is needed. In this editorial, we argue for better reporting and more ‘scale-up’ of physical activity programmes and outline how this can be done.

What is going on in physical activity research?

Intervention studies, whether they be preliminary/pilot, efficacy/effectiveness, replication or dissemination studies, are critical to informing policy decisions.4 Despite the importance of intervention research, observational studies continue to dominate physical activity research.1 Though the proportion of intervention studies has increased slightly over time, replication and dissemination studies (defined in box 1) have actually decreased.1 As a community of physical activity researchers, it is time we asked ourselves: are we studying what is easily carried out—or what is fundable—rather than what really matters for population health?

Box 1

Differentiating efficacy and effectiveness, replication and dissemination studies1

Efficacy and effectiveness studies investigate the impact of an intervention under optimal conditions (controlled (efficacy) or community (effectiveness) …

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  • Twitter @jen_baldwin0, @mabpinheiro, @Leanne_Hassett, @JulianaSOlive11, @AnneTiedemann1, @CathieSherr

  • Contributors JNB, MBP, CS, AT, LH and AEB developed the conceptual outline of the article. JNB wrote the first manuscript draft. All authors reviewed and edited the manuscript, and all authors approve of the final manuscript for submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.