Research Study Abstract

Within Day Variability of Objectively Measured Physical Activity During Weekdays and Weekend Days in Preschool Children

  • Added on July 22, 2011

Introduction There is inconclusive evidence for a causal link between physical activity (PA) and health outcomes in preschool children. Despite the common perception from practitioners that preschool children are receiving sufficient PA, data suggest they do not meet the PA recommendations (O’Dwyer et al. 2011). It is important to increase PA however evidence concerning the timing of successful preschool interventions remains inconclusive. The aim of this study was to explore within day variability of PA during weekdays and weekend days.

Methods Participants (n=240; 52% male, Mage = 4.4±0.6 years) were randomly selected from 12 schools in North West England. PA was measured using the GT1M ActiGraph uniaxial accelerometer for 7 consecutive days every 5 seconds, and analysed using age-specific cut points. For inclusion in the analyses, participants were required to have worn the monitors on 3 days (including one weekend day). School attending days and weekend days were segmented into before school (07:00-09:00), during school (09:00-15:00) and after school (16:00-19:00) and morning (08:00-11:00), daytime (12:00-16:00) and evening (17:00-20:00), respectively. A two way between groups analysis of variance was conducted to explore the impact of gender and age moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) across different segments of weekdays and weekend days.

Results Preschoolers spent 6.9% (average: 42.3 minutes) of the day in MVPA while 81.5% (average: 642.5 minutes) was time spent sedentary. During preschool attending days (09:00h-15:00h), boys accumulated more MVPA than girls (p=.014). During the weekend day (12:00h-15:00h) boys engaged in more MVPA (p=.008). There were no age and gender differences found for the other segments of the day.

Discussion Boys were more active during specific segments of the school day and weekend day. It may be potentially beneficial to incorporate PA interventions into preschool attending hours specifically for girls. Patterns of physical activity in preschool children appear to be consistent across both weekdays and weekend days though evidence of within day variability was found. Periods of the day susceptible to the improvement of PA were also revealed. Patterns of PA during preschool attending hours demonstrated that schools and childcare settings can play an important role in the promotion of PA, yet the home environment should also be targeted given the low levels of PA in this population.

References O’Dwyer M.V., et al. (2011) Physical activity in non-overweight and overweight children: Preliminary findings and methods of the Active Play Project. Science and Sports, doi:10.1016/j.scispo.2011.01.006