Research Study Abstract

Seasonal Changes in Childcare-related Physical Activity and Sedentary Time Among Preschoolers

  • Presented on May 29, 2013

Results from several objective monitoring studies suggest that children’s physical activity (PA) patterns may change across seasons; however, it is not well understood how PA patterns in the childcare setting may change across seasons.

Purpose To prospectively track preschoolers’ PA patterns during childcare while investigating for seasonal differences in accelerometer measured PA and sedentary (SED) time between the fall and winter months in Fargo, North Dakota.

Methods A total of 55 preschoolers (44% female) between the ages of 3 and 5 (mean age [M ± SE] = 4.3 ± 0.1 yrs) from 4 childcare centers wore an ActiGraph accelerometer (ActiTrainer; ActiGraph LLC, Penascola, FL) for 1 week in October/ November 2011 (fall) and again in January/February 2012 (winter). Accelerometers were worn at all times while in the center other than naptime and time of arrival and departure was logged for each child daily. SED time, light PA (LPA), and moderateto- vigorous PA (MVPA) during each assessment period was calculated and expressed relative to daily accelerometer wear time (min/hr). Repeated measures mixed model ANOVA was used to examine for changes in all PA variables from fall to winter with childcare center entered as a random effect in all models.

Results Children in this sample wore the accelerometers for an average of 5.3 ± 0.3 hr/day in fall and 5.1 ± 0.4 hr/day in winter (p =.30). Significant changes in SED time (fall: 33.4 ± 1.2 min/hr vs. winter: 37.0 ± 1.6 min/hr, p = .04) and MVPA (fall: 9.5 ± 0.7 min/hr vs. winter: 7.5 ± 0.7 min/hr, p = .01) were observed from fall to winter. No significant change in LPA (fall: 17.2 ± 0.6 min/hr vs. winter: 15.5 ± 1.1 min/hr, p = .09) was observed.

Conclusions Preschoolers’ MVPA during childcare decreased by 2 min/hr (> 10 min/day) from fall to winter as SED time increased by 3.6 min/hr (≈ 19 min/ day) during this period. Further research is needed to identify which factors are likely influencing these unfavorable seasonal changes in MVPA and SED time during childcare.