Outcomes Associated with Teacher-Guided Indoor Preschool Physical Activity Interventions
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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In the United States, preschool-aged children are not meeting age specific physical activity recommendations (1-3, 42, 82, 83) and spending a large portion of their days sedentary (4, 27). Minority children living in low-income rural communities and attending low-socioeconomic status (SES) schools are at a greater risk for low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary behavior (20, 21, 44-46). Preschool environments, where the majority of preschool-aged children spend a substantial amount of their week (6), have the ability to strongly benefit children’s physical activity levels through structured teacher-led activities (22, 84, 95, 96) and involvement (i.e. verbal prompting and demonstrated modeling) (7, 16-19, 26, 141, 142), however, research shows that preschool teachers rarely encourage, prompt, model, plan and lead physical activity opportunities within the preschool setting (9, 15, 61, 65), especially indoors (27). Therefore, teacher behavior change is a priority for preschooler’s physical activity opportunities to increase as adopting health behaviors are easier when conducive to change environments are created (126). While literature shows that teacher-led structured physical activity interventions can be a viable strategy for decreasing sedentary behavior and increasing physical activity among preschoolers (16, 22-25), as a whole, interventions have resulted in small to moderate increases in children’s physical activity, lacking in longitudinal success (84, 85). Moreover, interventions tend to have trained professionals implement the intervention in a way that the structured activity is consistent in delivery (25, 100, 101), which lacks realistic implementation for teachers. Because habits prompt frequent, automatic, and longitudinal performance of behavior (108), habit formation should be investigated to determine whether it may be a viable strategy in changing preschool teacher’s behavior and practices in the classroom to increase preschooler’s physical activity levels. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a teacher-guided and -led preschool physical activity intervention in low-income schools during indoor classroom time. Moreover, this study aimed to enhance the understanding of these influences by determining which teacher-led strategy, demonstrated modeling or verbal prompting, elicits higher levels of physical activity among children attending a low-SES preschool. Lastly, our study sought to gain more insight on the differences in children’s physical activity levels during various routine segments of the preschool day to explore whether different teacher-led strategies (teacher verbal prompting or demonstrated modeling) could be more beneficial for teachers to implement during various segments of the preschool day.