Increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among preschool children during school hours

Ru-Jye Chuang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Introduction: Evidence suggests that preschoolers do not spend much time engaging in physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA), and invest more time in sedentary activities. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of the Physical Education component of a theory-based intervention program, the CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) Early Childhood, measured by preschoolers' % time engaged in MVPA at preschool, and describe the measurement tools and procedures used in the process evaluation of the Physical Education (PE) component of CEC. Method: 440 preschoolers aged 3 to 5 years enrolled in the 6 Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Head Start centers for the 2009-20 10 school year and their parents participated in this study. Preschoolers' physical activity level was measured by ActiGraph GT3X accelerometers and the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time-Preschool (SOFIT-P). Differences in percent time spent in different levels of physical activity (PA) were examined by using the Mann-Whitney U test and Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA). The process evaluation gathered information from classroom teachers in the 3 intervention centers and from trained program staff during center visits. Descriptive analysis was conducted to present the result from this process evaluation. Result(s): More than half of the participating parents and preschoolers were Hispanic, and approximately 40% of the preschoolers were overweight or obese at baseline. Increase in mean percent time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activities was observed to be more apparent among preschoolers in the intervention group measured both by accelerometer and SOFIT-P (not statistically significant). Indoor vigorous activity increased significantly between pretest and posttest among preschoolers in the intervention group (p=0.049). For the process evaluation, trained program staff had 46 visits to the three intervention centers during implementation; 46% of which visits observed CEC PE lessons conducted indoors at carpeted areas with only a music player needed; 95.6% observed high teacher participation in the activities (most or all of the time); 91.3% observed children being often encouraged to be physically active; 88.9% observed half or more of the class engaged in PA for at least 80% of the time. Conclusion: The results of this study showed that a multicomponent physical activity program in lower-income preschools favorably increased physical activities among low-income children attending Head Start preschools. Moreover, process evaluation showed that CEC PE program was delivered with high level of reach and fidelity, which conformed to the design of CEC PE.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Early childhood education|Nutrition|Public health|Health education

Recommended Citation

Chuang, Ru-Jye, "Increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among preschool children during school hours" (2014). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3639413.