Behavioral Effects of a Locomotor-Based Physical Activity Intervention in Preschoolers

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Poor adaptive learning behaviors (ie, distractibility, inattention, and disruption) are associated with behavior problems and underachievement in school, as well as indicating potential attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Strategies are needed to limit these behaviors. Physical activity (PA) has been suggested to improve behavior in school-aged children, but little is known about this relationship in preschoolers. This study examined the effects of a PA intervention on classroom behaviors in preschool-aged children. Methods:Eight preschool classrooms (n = 71 children; age = 3.8 ± 0.7 y) with children from low socioeconomic environments were randomized to a locomotor-based PA (LB-PA) or unstructured free playtime (UF-PA) group. Both interventions were implemented by classroom teachers and delivered for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week for 6 months. Classroom behavior was measured in both groups at 3 time points, whereas PA was assessed at 2 time points over a 6-month period and analyzed with hierarchical linear modeling. Results:Linear growth models showed significant decreases in hyperactivity (LB-PA: −2.58 points, P = .001; UF-PA: 2.33 points, P = .03), aggression (LB-PA: −2.87 points, P = .01; UF-PA: 0.97 points, P = .38) and inattention (LB-PA: 1.59 points, P < .001; UF-PA: 3.91 points, P < .001). Conclusions: This research provides promising evidence for the efficacy of LB-PA as a strategy to improve classroom behavior in preschoolers.

Burkart and Alhassan are with the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA. Roberts and Davidson are with the Dept of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA.

Alhassan (alhassan@kin.umass.edu) is corresponding author.
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