The Association Between Preschooler Physical Activity Duration and Intensity and Social Emotional Development: Findings From the PLAYCE Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Social emotional development is imperative to young children’s long-term psychological and physical health. Physical activity (PA) may be important for young children’s social emotional development. The association between preschooler PA duration and intensity and social emotional development was investigated. Methods: Data from six hundred and fifty-one 2- to 4-year-olds in the Play Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity (PLAYCE) study were analyzed. PA was measured using ActiGraph-GT3X accelerometers worn over 7 days. Social emotional development was measured using the parent-completed Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Multilevel linear regression models examined the association between PA duration and intensity and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire subscales. Results: Preschoolers did 158.2 (SD = 40.2) minutes per day of PA with 27% meeting the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines for the Early Years. There was a 1.74 point decrease in the total Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire score for each additional hour of moderate-intensity PA per day (P < .05). Similar significant associations were found across all domains of social emotional development except hyperactivity, and were consistent across different intensities of light, moderate, and vigorous PA. Conclusions: These findings highlight the potential importance of PA, especially moderate-intensity play-based PA, for different aspects of preschool children’s social emotional development. Longitudinal and intervention research is required to confirm whether promoting PA in the early years provides developmental benefit.

Christian and Papageorgiou are with the Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia. Christian and Marzooqi are with the School of Population and Global Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia. Lester is with the School of Human Sciences (Exercise and Sport Science), The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia. Trost is with the Centre for Children’s Health Research, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Christian (hayley.christian@uwa.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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