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Physical Activity among Preschool Children

The physical activity habits of children are established as early as the first year of life and have been suggested to follow many children through their school years into adulthood.

We know that obesity and risks of cardiovascular diseases, for instance, are developed as early as the first few years of childhood.

Studies show that blood vessel changes and other factors, which are the initial signs of incipient cardiovascular disease, are detected as early as in 3-year-olds, who have several risk factors, such as elevated body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure and elevated blood fat and cholesterol counts (1).

 

A correlation between these risk factors and the amount of physical activity in 9-year-olds and 15-year-olds has been established in European Youth Heart Studies (EYHS) (2, 3). Very few studies, however, have examined how physical activity measures aimed at preschool children would affect various health parameters. Accordingly, only limited knowledge exists of whether insufficient physical exercise in early childhood is deleterious. Yet based on existing knowledge about the beneficial effect of physical activity among schoolchildren, our hypothesis is that a certain amount of physical activity as early as preschool age is important to the health of these preschoolers now and later on in life.

Statistics Denmark has noted that 95 per cent of all children aged 3 to 5 attend a kindergarten school or similar age-integrated institution. This means that almost all the children in this age group are involved in some sort of childcare scheme every day. Much of their day is spent at a kindergarten which, accordingly, should also provide an environment that promotes a substantial physical activity among the children.

Our knowledge of children’s patterns of physical activity at kindergarten is limited, as only a few valid studies have been carried out (primarily in the US), and few research groups have focused on this topic. Thus, a study of the extent of physical activity among children during the time spent at kindergarten that identifies the determinants of their activity patterns would be most relevant. For quite some time, we have wanted to study the effects of physical activity on the health of preschool children. Prior to embarking on this type of study, however, we needed a more extensive insight into the determinants of physical activity among children at kindergartens and, for this reason we recently carried out a pilot study.

Aims and methods
The pilot study had two primary aims:

1) to describe the level of physical activity by 3 to 6-year-olds during the time spent at the kindergarten;

2) to determine the demographic factors significant for the level of physical activity at the kindergarten,

including the children’s sex and age, the type of kindergarten, the area where the school is situated and the socio-demographic data of the parents. We studied the level of physical activity among children at various types of kindergartens located in various areas.

A total of 184 children from seven different kindergartens participated in the study.

Read the full pilot study in the above link