The Associations Between Environmental Characteristics of Early Childhood Education and Care Centers and 1-Year Change in Toddlers’ Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior

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Zhiguang Zhang
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Eduarda Sousa-Sá
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João R. Pereira
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Anthony D. Okely
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Xiaoqi Feng
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Rute Santos
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Background: This study examined the associations between environmental characteristics of early childhood education and care (ECEC) centers and 1-year change in toddlers’ physical activity and sedentary behavior while at the centers. Methods: Data from 292 toddlers from the GET-UP! study were analyzed. Environmental characteristics of ECEC centers were rated using the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-revised edition at baseline. Children’s physical activity and sedentary behavior in the centers were assessed using activPAL devices, at baseline and at 1-year follow-up. Linear mixed models were performed to examine the associations between the environmental characteristics and change in the proportion of time spent in physical activity and sedentary behavior. Results: Compared with baseline, children spent a higher proportion of time in sedentary behavior (sitting) but a lower proportion of time in standing and physical activity (stepping) while at ECEC centers, at 1-year follow-up. The environmental characteristics “interaction” (B = −1.39; P = .01) and “program structure” (B = −1.15; P = .04) were negatively associated with change in the proportion of time spent in physical activity. Conclusion: Better “interaction” and “program structure” may preclude children’s physical activity from declining over time and may be considered important features to target in future interventions in ECEC centers aiming at promoting active lifestyles.

Zhang, Sousa-Sá, Pereira, Okely, Feng, and Santos are with Early Start, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia. Pereira is also with CIDAF (uid/dtp/03213/2016), University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal. Okely and Feng are with Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, Keiraville, NSW, Australia. Feng is also with Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab, Faculty of Social Science, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia. Santos is also with the Research Centre in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal; and the Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologia, Lisboa, Portugal.

Zhang (zz886@uowmail.edu.au) is corresponding author.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Table S1 (PDF 84 KB)
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