Understanding Physical Activity, Motor Competence and Obesity in Preschool Children

  • Charlotte Hall

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Introduction: Globally, prevalence of overweight preschool aged children has increased (De Onis, et al., 2010) and is a serious public health concern (Public Health England, 2017). Both motor competence (MC) and physical activity (PA) are important for healthy weight status in young children (Stodden, et al., 2008; Robinson, et al., 2015) and should be important in managing overweight and obesity risks. The preschool ages represent a critical period of life for promoting PA and engaging in MC activities (LeGear, et al., 2012; Timmons, et al., 2012).

    Aims: The overall aims of this thesis were to provide original contributions regarding PA, MC and weight status associations in British preschool aged children, as described by Stodden and colleagues (2008) conceptual model. Each of the three experimental studies had differing aims. Study One examined associations between PA, MC and weight status, and to establish current PA levels. Study Two investigated the mediating capabilities of perceived MC on relationships between PA and MC. Study Three tracked children a year later to examine which past or present variables contributed to current PA, MC or BMI.

    Methods: Following institutional ethics approval, 177 children and their parents from childcare provisions within Coventry and Warwickshire were recruited. Objective measures of PA (accelerometers), actual MC (TGMD-2, Ulrich, 2000), perceived MC (PSMC, Barnett, et al., 2015) and BMI were obtained. PA was categorised as total PA (TPA) or moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA). MC was reported as total MC or separated into locomotor MC (LC) and object-control MC (OC). Children were assessed at baseline for Study One and a year following at follow-up for Study Two and Three.

    Results: During Study One, associations were found between PA and MC (TPA and overall MC, TPA and OC, MVPA and overall MC, and MVPA and OC). In Study Two, there were no mediating impacts of perceived MC on the relationship between PA and actual MC. During Study Three, previous BMI and current MVPA were identified as the better predictors of current BMI. 96.4% of variance (P = 0.001) in each child’s follow-up BMI were explained by baseline BMI (P = 0.001) and follow-up MVPA (P = 0.003); 49.8% of variance in follow-up TPA (P = 0.007) were explained by baseline MVPA (P = 0.011), TPA (P = 0.012) and BMI (P = 0.006); 65.0% of variance in each child’s follow-up MVPA (P = 0.001) were explained by baseline and follow-up BMI (P = 0.003; P = 0.002), baseline MVPA (P = 0.003), and baseline TPA (P = 0.003); 27.5% of variance (P = 0.051) of each child’s follow-up LC was explained by follow-up BMI (P = 0.008), follow-up TPA (P = 0.037) and follow-up MVPA (P = 0.032).

    Conclusion: Good MC is an important correlate of children meeting PA guidelines for health when using population and age validated PA cut-points. Relationships between actual MC and PA is not mediated by perceived MC in a small sample of British preschool childhood. MVPA is the most consistent variable to maintaining healthy weight status in British preschool children.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSam Oxford (Supervisor), Emma Eyre (Supervisor) & Michael Duncan (Supervisor)

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