Acute effects of teacher-implemented physical activity breaks on preschooler’s physical activity participation and academic time on-task
Type of Degreedissertation
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Physical activity participation is a crucial component to a child’s healthy development. Although various benefits and positive correlations exist from adequate amounts of physical activity participation, a majority of preschool-age children do not participate in recommended amounts of activity. Schools have been found to be an appropriate area to address these physical activity needs and potentially deter the rapid onset of the current childhood obesity epidemic. The purpose of this intervention was to examine the acute effects of teacher-implemented classroom based physical activity breaks on physical activity participation and academic time on-task for a preschool-age population. Motor skill competency and weight classification status were also examined to determine if classroom-based physical activity breaks could equally influence moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). 118 (M age = 3.7966 ± 0.69 years) preschoolers from one Head Start center in the southeastern region of the United States participated in this within-subjects experiment. Teachers’ implemented ten-minute classroom based physical activity breaks into their classroom. Students’ physical activity was assessed with accelerometers; on-task behavior was coded prior to and following the activity breaks. The Test of Gross Motor Development – 2nd edition (TGMD-2) and body mass index (BMI) percentiles were used to examine the effect of motor skill competency and weight on physical activity behaviors during the activity breaks. Results found no significant difference between conditions (i.e. activity break, typical instruction) in terms of percentage of school day physical activity participation (i.e. light, moderate, or vigorous physical activity; F1, 117 = 1.059, p = 0.315). The same was observed for sedentary behaviors (t117 = -1.244, p = .216). The activity break time period did have more MVPA compared to the control time period (t116 = 18.083, p < .001). However, it appears compensation did occur following the implementation of an activity break, students were significantly more sedentary (t117 = -2.6, p = .011) and less active in light (t117 = 2.653, p = .009) and moderate (t117 = 2.250, p = .026) physical activity compared to the typical instruction days. Physical activity breaks did promote more on-task behavior immediately following an in-class break (F1,117 = 18.857, p < .001). There was no significant correlation between weight status and MVPA participation during the breaks (r = -.028, p = .385); however, higher motor skill competency appeared to have been moderately related to MVPA participation (r = 0.366, p < .001). The findings of this acute intervention indicate that with an increased bout of physical activity in the classroom, teachers’ may adequately improve time on-task post-break for the preschool-age population. Additionally, classroom based physical activity breaks can increase MVPA, however these effects don’t appear to carry over into the rest of the school day. One potential explanation may be compensation of more sedentary behavior and less physical activity after the activity break; further investigation into the cause may be necessary, such as low cardiorespiratory endurance levels. Activity breaks may be an appropriate way to elicit activity in overweight or obese students and increase physical activity participation. Motor skill competency, specifically locomotor scores, did predict activity, more emphasis may need to be placed on improving fundamental motor skills along with increasing physical activity in this age population.