UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Active Schools

Full title: Active Schools: a scoping review study of the links between indoor built environment, pedagogy and physical activity

27 April 2017

The benefits of regular physical activity (PA) and of limiting sedentary behaviour are acknowledged across all age groups. In children and young people these benefits range from helping develop healthy musculoskeletal tissues and cardiovascular system, to psychological benefits (by improving control over symptoms of anxiety and depression) or helping to more readily adopt other healthy behaviours (e.g. avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drug use). 

Children spend a large proportion of their time at school, where so far most research and interventions to improve PA and tackle sedentary behaviour have focused on either physical education (delivered once or twice a week) or break time (discretionary time).

Whilst the built environment is likely to play a role on school children’s PA and sitting time during physical education, break time and lessons, these effects are inevitably intertwined with pedagogical approaches and teachers’ preferences. However, there is limited cross-disciplinary research on how the built environment may affect pedagogy, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in school children.

This knowledge gap exists particularly for research that investigates how changing the design of the general internal school layout may “nudge” pupils to walk more or substitute sitting with standing, regardless of demographic characteristics and motivation. As what is learnt is much to do with physical and social engagement during the school day, the design of the building may help or hinder that process. 

This project brings together a cross-disciplinary team of education, built environment and physical activity experts to carry out a scoping review of published evidence in each of the disciplinary domains as well as relevant guidelines and best practice, with a view of identifying how built environment features and educational approaches might affect pedagogy, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in pupils at school. 


PIs:  Marcella Ucci and Richard Andrew 

Co-Is: Alexi Mamot, Abi Fisher, Lee Smith and Alexia Sawyer 

R: Stephen Law 


Project is ongoing. A scoping review paper based on the work undertaken is currently under preparation. 


As this is an ongoing project, a relevant impact plan and key areas of research impact are to be announced once the work is complete. 


For further information please contact: Marcella Ucci