Effects of Child Care Policy and Environment on Physical Activity

Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA.
Medicine and science in sports and exercise (Impact Factor: 3.98). 03/2010; 42(3):520-5. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181cea3ef
Source: PubMed


Child care centers differ systematically with respect to the quality and quantity of physical activity they provide, suggesting that center-level policies and practices, as well as the center's physical environment, are important influences on children's physical activity behavior.
To summarize and critically evaluate the extant peer-reviewed literature on the influence of child care policy and environment on physical activity in preschool-aged children.
A computer database search identified seven relevant studies that were categorized into three broad areas: cross-sectional studies investigating the impact of selected center-level policies and practices on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), studies correlating specific attributes of the outdoor play environment with the level and intensity of MVPA, and studies in which a specific center-level policy or environmental attribute was experimentally manipulated and evaluated for changes in MVPA.
Staff education and training, as well as staff behavior on the playground, seem to be salient influences on MVPA in preschoolers. Lower playground density (less children per square meter) and the presence of vegetation and open play areas also seem to be positive influences on MVPA. However, not all studies found these attributes to be significant. The availability and quality of portable play equipment, not the amount or type of fixed play equipment, significantly influenced MVPA levels.
Emerging evidence suggests that several policy and environmental factors contribute to the marked between-center variability in physical activity and sedentary behavior. Intervention studies targeting these factors are thus warranted.

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    • "In this paper we concentrate on the physical environment's influence. Previous studies on playgrounds have shown that access to equipment, the size of the outdoor area, access to open spaces, and access to natural elements such as trees and shrubbery matter (Boldemann et al. 2011; Fjørtoft 2004; Hannon and Brown 2008; Maxwell, Mitchell and Evans 2008; Mårtensson 2004; Nielsen et al. 2012; Smith et al. 2014; Trost, Ward and Senso 2010; Woolley and Lowe 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Based on qualitative data gathered from observations, we investigate what opportunities for physical activity kindergarten children utilize in outdoor areas that are manmade and contain only artificial playground equipment. The findings show that much self-chosen physical activity play took place in the outdoor area. Open surfaces are utilized in games that include walking and running. Places with graspable holds and standable steps are popular climbing areas. Loose and moveable equipment and substances increase the variety of activity. Based on these findings, we consider the outdoor area to be suitable for the observed 5-year olds with regard to promoting physical activity.
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    • "To guide the development of PA intervention in preschool settings, it is important to identify structures that promote regular PA [18]. In this context, a study of country- or region-specific preschool programs, along with an evaluation of their effects on PA, could be helpful in identifying the chances and risks associated with the promotion of PA in preschool for obesity prevention. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Physical activity (PA) in preschoolers is vital to protect against obesity but is influenced by different early-life factors. The present study investigated the impact of different preschool programs and selected family factors on preschoolers' PA in different countries in an explorative way. Methods: The PA of 114 children (age = 5.3 ± 0.65 years) attending different preschool settings in four cities of the trinational Upper Rhine region (Freiburg, Landau/Germany, Basel/Switzerland, and Strasbourg/France) was measured by direct accelerometry. Anthropometrical and family-related data were obtained. Timetables of preschools were analyzed. Results: Comparing the preschool settings, children from Strasbourg and Landau were significantly more passive than children from Basel and Freiburg (P < .01). With regard to the family context as an important early-life factor, a higher number of children in a family along with the mother's and child's anthropometrical status are predictors of engagement in PA. Conclusion: More open preschool systems such as those in Basel, Freiburg, and Landau do not lead to more PA "per se" compared to the highly regimented desk-based system in France. Preliminaries such as special training and the number of caregivers might be necessary elements to enhance PA. In family contexts, targeted PA interventions for special groups should be more focused in the future.
    Journal of obesity 06/2014; 2014:321701. DOI:10.1155/2014/321701
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    • "Preschools without PAPs conducted such measures least frequently, which also reflects the lack of an appropriate programme. Because PA in early childhood can mediate basic cognitive, emotional and social learning processes [7], social skills can be promoted in a targeted manner in the scope of PA promotion measures. This also applies to other educational goals, such as the promotion of cognitive and emotional skills. "
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    ABSTRACT: Preschools offer high potential for preventive interventions. However, little is known about the structure of preschool programmes to promote physical activity (PA) in preschoolers although almost all children aged three to six years spend one third of the day at preschool. The aim of this study was to determine whether and to what extent preschools implement systematic PA promotion measures using an instrument specifically developed to assess and systematize preschool PA programmes. In the cross-sectional study a baseline survey of preschool education policies was conducted to identify and assess the type and extent of PA programmes and opportunities in preschools in the State of Lower Saxony, Germany. An assessment instrument was developed to identify preschools with systematic PA programmes (type 1) and those without PA programmes (type 2) based on the following quality criteria: A) written PA policy, B) structured weekly PA offerings for all children; C) at least one qualified physical education teacher; D) PA-friendly indoor and outdoor facilities (exercise room, situational PA opportunities, outdoor areas, play equipment etc.), and E) structured PA promotion in place for at least two years. A third type of preschool that promotes PA in children to some extent (i.e., that meets the criteria partially but not completely) was classified as "preschools with limited PA programmes". 2415 preschools participated in the survey (response rate: 59 %). The results show that 26 % (n = 554) have a systematic PA programme while 3 % (n = 64) have no PA programme. Most (71 %, n = 1514) were classified as limited PA programme preschools. All three types of preschools differed significantly (p = .000) from each other in terms of size (small vs. large). Most of the preschools without PA programmes are small half-day preschools. The study investigated an assessment-instrument providing extensive insight into the nature, extent and routine practical implementation of PA promotion in preschools. The criteria used to evaluate preschool PA programmes are well-suited to identify the different preschool PA programme types and target areas in the field of PA promotion in which specific measures (teacher education, structured PA offerings, etc.) can be implemented in future interventions.
    BMC Public Health 09/2013; 13(1):795. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-13-795 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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