Obesity rates are increasing in children of preschool age, and decreased physical activity is a likely contributor to this troubling trend. Millions of American children spend several hours per day in formal preschool settings, but little is known about the physical activity levels of children in preschools.
PURPOSE: The investigation was designed to describe the physical activity behaviors of children in preschools and to identify the physical and social environmental factors as well as the institutional resources, policies and practices that influence physical activity in children attending preschools.
Design and Study Population
The research was conducted in 24 licensed preschools, and subjects were 720 children in the 3-5 year age range (30 children per school). A cross-sectional, observational study design was used. To describe associations between moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and the factors that are hypothesized to influence MVPA a series of mixed model analyses were performed. These analyses included preschool as a random effect to account for the intact social grouping of children within preschools. Also, multivariate analyses including both individual and school level independent variables were performed.
Physical activity was measured in each child using two objective methods: accelerometry (motion sensors) and direct observation. Each child wore a uniaxial accelerometer during his/her hours of preschool attendance (at least 4 hours) on five days, and raw accelerometer data was used to calculate minutes of inactivity and minutes of light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity. Also, an observational system was used to measure the child's physical activity and hypothesized social and environmental influences on physical activity. Each child was observed for a total of 6 hours (twelve 30-minute periods). Institutional resources, policies, and practices were measured by structured interviews with school personnel, by direct measures of school resources (e.g., playground dimensions), and by administration of the Early Childhood Education Rating Scale (ECERS-R). A cross-sectional, observational study design was used. To describe associations between moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and the factors that are hypothesized to influence MVPA a series of mixed model analyses were performed. These analyses included preschool as a random effect to account for the intact social grouping of children within preschools. Also, multivariate analyses including both individual and school level independent variables were performed. The study addressed a critical public health problem, the increasing prevalence of obesity in children, by laying the groundwork for future intervention studies and for development of effective public policies.
Timeline: 2003 - 2008
Funding Source: NIH/NICHD
Principal Investigator: Russell R. Pate
Co-Investigator(s): Cheryl Addy, William Brown, Harriet Williams
Guo H, Schenkelberg MA, O’Neill JR, Dowda M, Pate RR. How Does the Relationship Between Motor Skill Performance and Body Mass Index Impact Physical Activity in Preschool Children?. Pediatric exercise science. 2018 May 1;30(2):266-72.[pdf]
McIver KL, Brown WH, Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, Pate RR. Development and testing of the observational system for recording physical activity in children: Elementary school. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 2016 Jan 2;87(1):101-9.[pdf]
Byun W, Beets MW, Pate RR. Sedentary behavior in preschoolers: How many days of accelerometer monitoring is needed?. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2015 Oct 20;12(10):13148-61.[pdf]
Pate RR, O'Neill JR, Brown WH, Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, Addy CL. Prevalence of compliance with a new physical activity guideline for preschool-age children. Childhood obesity. 2015 Aug 1;11(4):415-20.[pdf]
O’Neill JR, Williams HG, Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, McIver KL, Brown WH, Pate RR. Young children's motor skill performance: relationships with activity types and parent perception of athletic competence. Journal of science and medicine in sport. 2014 Nov 1;17(6):607-10.[pdf]
Addy CL, Trilk JL, Dowda M, Byun W, Pate RR. Assessing preschool children’s physical activity: how many days of accelerometry measurement. Pediatric exercise science. 2014 Feb;26(1):103-9.[pdf]
Byun W, Liu J, Pate RR. Association between objectively measured sedentary behavior and body mass index in preschool children. International journal of obesity. 2013 Jul;37(7):961.[pdf]
Howie EK, Brown WH, Dowda M, McIver KL, Pate RR. Physical activity behaviours of highly active preschoolers. Pediatric obesity. 2013 Apr;8(2):142-9.[pdf]
Pate RR, Dowda M, Brown WH, Mitchell J, Addy C. Physical activity in preschool children with the transition to outdoors. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2013 Feb;10(2):170-5.[pdf]
Byun W, Dowda M, Pate RR. Correlates of objectively measured sedentary behavior in US preschool children. Pediatrics. 2011 Oct 14:peds-2011.[pdf]
Dowda M, Pfeiffer KA, Brown WH, Mitchell JA, Byun W, Pate RR. Parental and environmental correlates of physical activity of children attending preschool. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine. 2011 Oct 3;165(10):939-44.[pdf]
Bornstein DB, Beets MW, Byun W, Welk G, Bottai M, Dowda M, Pate R. Equating accelerometer estimates of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity: in search of the Rosetta Stone. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2011 Sep 1;14(5):404-10.[pdf]
Beets MW, Bornstein D, Dowda M, Pate RR. Compliance with national guidelines for physical activity in US preschoolers: measurement and interpretation. Pediatrics. 2011 Mar 15:peds-2010.[pdf]
Williams HG, Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, Jeter C, Jones S, Pate RR. A field-based testing protocol for assessing gross motor skills in preschool children: The children's activity and movement in preschool study motor skills protocol. Measurement in physical education and exercise science. 2009 Jul 29;13(3):151-65.[pdf]
Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, McIver KL, Pate RR. Factors related to objectively measured physical activity in preschool children. Pediatric exercise science. 2009 May;21(2):196-208.[pdf]
McIver KL, Brown WH, Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, Pate RR. Assessing children's physical activity in their homes: The observational system for recording physical activity in children‐home. Journal of applied behavior analysis. 2009 Mar;42(1):1-6.[pdf]
Dowda M, Brown WH, McIver KL, Pfeiffer KA, O'Neill JR, Addy CL, Pate RR. Policies and characteristics of the preschool environment and physical activity of young children. Pediatrics. 2009 Feb 1;123(2):e261-6.[pdf]
Brown WH, Pfeiffer KA, McIver KL, Dowda M, Addy CL, Pate RR. Social and environmental factors associated with preschoolers’ nonsedentary physical activity. Child development. 2009 Jan;80(1):45-58.[pdf]
Pate RR, McIver K, Dowda M, Brown WH, Addy C. Directly observed physical activity levels in preschool children. Journal of school health. 2008 Aug;78(8):438-44.[pdf]
Williams HG, Pfeiffer KA, O'neill JR, Dowda M, McIver KL, Brown WH, Pate RR. Motor skill performance and physical activity in preschool children. Obesity. 2008 Jun;16(6):1421-6.[pdf]
Pate RR, Almeida MJ, McIver KL, Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M. Validation and calibration of an accelerometer in preschool children. Obesity. 2006 Nov;14(11):2000-6.[pdf]
Brown WH, Pfeiffer KA, McIver KL, Dowda M, Almeida JM, Pate RR. Assessing preschool children's physical activity: the Observational System for Recording Physical Activity in children-preschool version. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 2006 Jun 1;77(2):167-76.[pdf]
Pfeiffer KA, Mciver KL, Dowda M, Almeida MJ, Pate RR. Validation and calibration of the Actical accelerometer in preschool children. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2006 Jan;38(1):152-7.[pdf]