Journal article

Physical activity and sedentary behavior in preschoolers: a longitudinal assessment of trajectories and determinants

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  • International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. - 2018, vol. 15, no. 35, p. 1-12
English Background : Despite physical activity (PA) being recognized as a critically important factor for good physical and mental health already early in life and throughout the life course, prospective data on activity behavior during the preschool years remains scarce. This study examined trajectories and determinants of levels and change in total PA (TPA), moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and sedentary behavior (SB) in a representative sample of Swiss preschoolers. Methods : Data were drawn from the Swiss Preschoolers’ Health Study (SPLASHY), a multi-site prospective cohort study including 555 children (53% boys) aged 2-to-6 years at baseline. A follow-up was conducted after 12 months. Activity behavior was measured using accelerometers. Information on 35 potential determinants from different socio-ecological domains was either directly measured or parent-reported. Trajectories of TPA, MVPA and SB over time were described for boys and girls. Linear mixed models were used to investigate factors that predicted levels and change in TPA, MVPA and SB. Results: All children were sufficiently physically active according to published recommendations for preschoolers. Trajectory profiles revealed a marked increase in TPA and MVPA in boys and girls whereas SB remained fairly stable over time. Mixed modeling demonstrated that variables most relevant to determining PA levels were sex, age and activity temperament (all positively associated). Together with gross motor skills, birth weight, family structure (only for TPA) and season (only for MVPA), these factors accounted for 26 and 32% of total variance explained in TPA and MVPA, respectively. Activity temperament emerged as the strongest determinant of SB (negative association) and explained with sex, season and family structure 20% of total variance in SB. The presence of older siblings was the only factor that predicted change in PA over time. Conclusions : In this healthy physically active cohort of preschoolers, non-modifiable individual-level factors had the greatest influence on PA. The limited success of this and previous studies to identify modifiable determinants and the finding that most preschoolers were sufficiently active suggest that future attempts should provide insights into how preschoolers’ activity levels can be maintained and fostered to prevent subsequent harmful declines attributable, amongst others, to educational transitions. Thus, good-quality longitudinal studies are needed.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de Psychologie
  • English
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