Research Study Abstract

Can a 6 Week School Based Active Play Intervention Increase Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity and Decrease Sedentary Behaviour?

  • Added on July 22, 2011

Introduction There is concern that preschool children are not physically active enough to benefit health, yet few interventions have attempted to increase physical activity (PA) in this population. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of a 6-week school based Active Play intervention on children’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) levels and sedentary behaviour.

Methods Participants (n=240; 52% male, Mage = 4.4 ±0.6 years) were recruited from 12 schools in one large city in England and were randomly assigned to an intervention or comparison group. Intervention schools received one Active Play session (~30 min) per week for 6-weeks from a trained Active Play deliverer. Comparison schools received the Active Play resource pack, which was delivered by the class teacher during curriculum time. PA was measured by uniaxial accelerometer (GT1M Actigraph) for 7 consecutive days using a 5 second epoch before and after the intervention. Data were analysed using age specific cut points (Sirard et al. 2005). For inclusion in the analyses, participants were required to have worn the monitors on 3 days (including one weekday day). A mixed between-within subject’s analysis of variance assessed the effectiveness of the two different groups on children’s MVPA and sedentary behaviour.

Results At baseline, preschoolers spent 6.9% (average: 42.3 minutes) of the day in MVPA while 81.5% (average: 642.5 minutes) was time spent sedentary. There was no significant interaction between intervention type and time for weekday MVPA (p=0.7) and sedentary behaviour (p=0.8). Weekend sedentary behaviour decreased in both groups (average decrease: 31.2 minutes) although this decrease was not significant (p=0.6).

Discussion Low levels of PA at baseline emphasises the need for interventions to increase PA engagement among this population. However, the Active Play intervention did not significantly increase MVPA or decrease sedentary time, possibly because there may not have been an adequate dose of activity. In addition, Bronfenbrenners Ecological Model (Bronfenbrenner 1989) proposes that for a preschooler the two main influencing factors are parents and teachers; the absence of involving parents may have contributed to the lack of behaviour change. Future interventions focusing on preschool children should aim to include the home environment and run over a longer period of time.

References Sirard, J.R. et al. (2005) Calibration and evaluation of an objective measure of physical activity in preschool children. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 3, 357-435. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1989) Ecological systems theory. Annals of Child Development, 6, 187-249.