In the UK, a large proportion of preschool children aged 2-4 years fail to meet the UK recommended physical activity (PA) guidelines of 180 minutes per day for their age. This is a cause for concern for preschool children’s development and overall health, as the prevalence of overweight and obesity in their age group is continuing to rise. Awareness of preschool children’s PA levels during both the week and weekend days and their fundamental movement skill (FMS) competency is crucial to understand. This will ensure that information can be gained to inform preschool staff, parents and policies to improve preschool children’s health. The aims of this thesis were to, a) calibrate cut-points for the use of wrist worn GENEActiv accelerometers, allowing for analysis of preschool children’s PA levels, b) be the first to compare PA levels of preschool children between weekdays and weekend days
using objective measurements in the UK, c) investigate whether FMS influence PA levels and weight status in preschool children, in an area of low socioeconomic status, and whether such influence differs between weekend and weekdays, and d) investigate preschool staff and parents' perceptions of preschool children's PA and FMS, in relation to the environment, facilities, play and barriers to PA
The initial stage of this research aimed to validate cut-points for use of wrist worn GENEActiv accelerometer data, to analyse preschool children’s (4 to 5-year olds) PA levels via calibration with oxygen consumption values (VO2). This was a laboratory based calibration study. Twenty-one preschool children, (13 boys and 8
girls) aged 4.7 ± 0.5 years old, completed six activities (ranging from lying supine to running) whilst wearing the GENEActiv accelerometers at two locations (left and right wrist), these being the participants’ non-dominant and dominant wrist, and a
Cortex face mask for gas analysis. VO2 data was used for the assessment of criterion validity. Location specific activity intensity cut points were established via Receiver Operator Characteristic curve (ROC) analysis. The GENEActiv accelerometers, irrespective of their location, accurately discriminated between all PA intensities (sedentary, light, and moderate and above), with the dominant wrist monitor providing a slightly more precise discrimination at light PA and the nondominant at the sedentary behaviour and moderate and above intensity levels (Area Under the Curve (AUC) for non-dominant = 0.749-0.993, compared to AUC dominant = 0.760-0.988). This study established wrist-worn PA cut points for the GENEActiv accelerometer in preschool children
The next study sought to be the first to compare PA levels of preschool children between weekdays and weekend days using objective measurements in the UK using the GENEActiv accelerometers. 185 preschool children (99 boys, 86 girls),
aged 3-4 years old, participated in the study. PA was determined using triaxial accelerometry over a four-day period. None of the sample met the UK recommended 180 minutes or more of total daily PA. There was a significant difference in the percentage of time (relative) that preschool children spent in sedentary behaviour between week and weekend days (P<0.05); yet not between
the light and moderate and vigorous PA. Preschool children’s participation in moderate and vigorous PA in the week days and weekend days is extremely low, with it being lower during weekend days compared to week days. These findings indicate that interventions are needed to enhance PA on all days in preschool
The next stage of research as part of this thesis endeavoured to investigate whether FMS influences PA levels and weight status in preschool children (99 boys, 86 girls) aged 3-4 years, in an area of low socioeconomic status, and whether such influence differs between weekend and weekdays. This study also aimed to test whether FMS differs between boys and girls. FMS proficiency was determined, using the Test of Gross Motor Development 2. PA was determined using triaxial accelerometry over a four-day period. None of the sample met the UK recommended 180 mins or more
of total daily PA for health. There were no significant differences in PA or weight status between preschool children with high, medium or low FMS competency (P<0.05). There were significant differences reported between hop, leap and skip with girls scoring higher, and the kick where boys scored higher (P< 0.05). There
were also no significant correlations between overall FMS and MVPA during the week or weekend days. There were no significant differences in PA or weight status between preschool children with high, medium or low FMS competency, possibly because FMS competency had not developed to a high enough level to affect PA.
The final study investigated preschool staff and parents' perceptions of preschool children's PA and FMS, in relation to the environment, facilities, play and barriers to PA. Following institutional ethics approval, semi-structured focus groups were
conducted in 4 preschools, with the inclusion of parents and staff of 2-4-year-old children from North Warwickshire, England. The focus groups consisted of between four and five participants and included both parents and staff. However, focus groups were homogeneous in terms of gender, socioeconomic background and
predominately homogeneous in ethnic background. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes and subthemes. Emergent themes included: spacious outdoor environment, the use of climbing frames and outdoor equipment for promoting PA
and developing FMS, who was responsible for PA; time, cost, health and safety concerns as barriers to PA and staff training. Findings suggest that preschools provide good opportunities for PA and FMS, especially for preschool children from low socio-economic backgrounds, allowing them access to outdoor exercise and
equipment. However, results from the focus groups highlighted a need for more staff training and greater parental involvement in relation to PA and FMS opportunities, to further improve preschool children’s PA levels and develop their FMS. To increase PA and FMS in preschool children, interventions are required which continue with the current levels of PA in preschools, whilst including greater parental involvement and staff training for increasing PA levels and developing FMS.
All studies within this thesis have been influential in extending the understanding of preschool children’s PA levels and FMS competency from a deprived area. The thesis has found that children do not participate in the UK recommended 180 mins
of MVPA per daily. They are significantly more sedentary on the weekend days, their PA levels and weight status do not significantly differ depending on their FMS competency, and preschool parents and staff believe that preschool settings and the outside environment are major influences in terms of promoting PA for preschool children from a low SES area, with the home environment needing to be more supportive in promoting PA and FMS. Levels of MVPA were found to be extremely low during both the week and weekend days, with them being slightly higher in the weekdays whilst in preschool. Therefore, future interventions are required to improve the MVPA levels in preschool children both in the preschool settings and at home. Equally, sedentary behaviour is required to be decreased during the weekend days, this combined with the qualitative feedback suggests that interventions are
specifically required to improve PA levels and FMS competency in the home environment and parents may require training to achieve this. The research conducted within this thesis is important in informing future research/interventions and public health policies to improve the PA levels, FMS competency and weight
status of preschool aged children living in a deprived area.
|Date of Award||2018|
|Supervisor||Rob James (Supervisor)|