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Perceptions of visualising physical activity as a 3D-printed object: Formative study

Crossley, Sam Graeme Morgan, McNarry, Melitta Anne, Hudson, Joanne, Eslambolchilar, Parisa ORCID:, Knowles, Zoe and Mackintosh, Kelly Alexandra 2019. Perceptions of visualising physical activity as a 3D-printed object: Formative study. JMIR: Journal of Medical Internet Research 21 (1) , e12064. 10.2196/12064

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Background: The UK government recommends that children engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 min every day. Despite associated physiological and psychosocial benefits of physical activity, many youth fail to meet these guidelines partly due to sedentary screen-based pursuits displacing active behaviors. However, technological advances such as 3D printing have enabled innovative methods of visualizing and conceptualizing physical activity as a tangible output. Objective: The aim of this study was to elicit children’s, adolescents’, parents’, and teachers’ perceptions and understanding of 3D physical activity objects to inform the design of future 3D models of physical activity. Methods: A total of 28 primary school children (aged 8.4 [SD 0.3] years; 15 boys) and 42 secondary school adolescents (aged 14.4 [SD 0.3] years; 22 boys) participated in semistructured focus groups, with individual interviews conducted with 8 teachers (2 male) and 7 parents (2 male). Questions addressed understanding of the physical activity guidelines, 3D model design, and both motivation for and potential engagement with a 3D physical activity model intervention. Pupils were asked to use Play-Doh to create and describe a model that could represent their physical activity levels (PAL). Data were transcribed verbatim and thematically analyzed, and key emergent themes were represented using pen profiles. Results: Pupils understood the concept of visualizing physical activity as a 3D object, although adolescents were able to better analyze and critique differences between low and high PAL. Both youths and adults preferred a 3D model representing a week of physical activity data when compared with other temporal representations. Furthermore, all participants highlighted that 3D models could act as a motivational tool to enhance youths’ physical activity. From the Play-Doh designs, 2 key themes were identified by pupils, with preferences indicated for models of abstract representations of physical activity or bar charts depicting physical activity, respectively. Conclusions: These novel findings highlight the potential utility of 3D objects of physical activity as a mechanism to enhance children’s and adolescents’ understanding of, and motivation to increase, their PAL. This study suggests that 3D printing may offer a unique strategy for promoting physical activity in these groups.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Computer Science & Informatics
Additional Information: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Publisher: JMIR Publications
ISSN: 1439-4456
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 December 2018
Date of Acceptance: 17 October 2018
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 14:08

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