The Effectiveness of Physical Literacy Interventions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis

Carl J, Barratt J, Wanner P, Töpfer C, Cairney J, Pfeifer K (2022)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2022


Pages Range: 2965–2999

Journal Issue: 52

DOI: 10.1007/s40279-022-01738-4



The holistic concept of physical literacy assumes that individuals require adequate cognitive (knowledge and understanding), affective (motivation and confidence), and physical (physical competence) qualities to engage in lifelong physical activity behavior. In recent years, the research field has undergone rapid development and has also yielded an increasing number of interventions that aim to translate the theoretical-philosophical ideas into practical endeavors.


The goal of the present pre-registered systematic review was to (a) provide a general overview of evaluation studies on physical literacy interventions and (b) to quantitatively examine the effectiveness of physical literacy interventions.


Drawing on the 2020 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, we searched a total of 18 databases for physical literacy interventions. Inclusion criteria were English language, publication by November 2021, and interventions using physical literacy as a theoretical underpinning or evaluation outcome. Articles that met these criteria were analyzed with respect to their basic delivery characteristics, study quality, evaluation approach, and main findings. We additionally ran meta-analyses with all non-randomized and randomized controlled trials to examine and compare the effect of these interventions on five outcome categories: (i) physical competence, (ii) motivation and confidence, (iii) knowledge and understanding, (iv) physical activity behavior, and (v) total physical literacy. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated to assess the effects on the different categories.


The screening process with two independent raters yielded 48 eligible interventions reported in 51 eligible articles. Quantitative evaluations most frequently addressed physical competence (72.2%), followed by motivation and confidence (47.2%), physical activity behavior (41.7%), and knowledge and understanding (33.3%). The controlled intervention studies (n = 24) exerted significant effects on all five physical literacy categories. Despite meaningful heterogeneity across the subgroups, the strongest effects were found for physical competence (SMD 0.90; 95% CI 0.55–1.25), followed by physical literacy aggregate scores (SMD 0.61; 95% CI 0.20–1.01), knowledge and understanding (SMD 0.54; 95% CI 0.30–0.79), physical activity behavior (SMD 0.39; 95% CI 0.23–0.55), and motivation and confidence (SMD 0.30; 95% CI 0.17–0.44).


The present study empirically demonstrated the effectiveness of physical literacy interventions on several outcomes relevant for promoting physical activity and health. To better inform current practices, future studies are advised to identify those program characteristics that significantly influence the effectiveness of physical literacy interventions.

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Carl, J., Barratt, J., Wanner, P., Töpfer, C., Cairney, J., & Pfeifer, K. (2022). The Effectiveness of Physical Literacy Interventions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 52, 2965–2999.


Carl, Johannes, et al. "The Effectiveness of Physical Literacy Interventions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis." Sports Medicine 52 (2022): 2965–2999.

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