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Objectively Measured Physical Activity in South African Children Attending Preschool and Grade R: Volume, Patterns, and Meeting Guidelines

Simone A. Tomaz, Trina Hinkley, Rachel A. Jones, Rhian Twine, Kathleen Kahn, Shane A. Norris, and Catherine E. Draper

Purpose: To assess physical activity (PA) and determine the proportion of preschoolers meeting PA recommendations in different income settings in South Africa. Methods: Preschoolers from urban high-income (UH), urban low-income (UL), and rural low-income (RL) settings wore an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer for 7 days. PA variables of interest included volume moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA (MVPA) and total PA (light- to vigorous-intensity PA), hourly PA patterns, and percentage of children meeting guidelines (180 min/d of total PA, inclusive of 60 min/d of MVPA). Between-sex differences were assessed using t tests and Mann–Whitney U tests; between-setting differences assessed using 1-way analyses of variance and Kruskal–Wallis tests. Results: For all children (n = 229, aged 5.17 [0.69] y), average MVPA was 124.4 (37.5) minutes per day and total PA was 457.0 (61.1) minutes per day; 96.9% of children met guidelines. Boys did significantly more MVPA than girls (136.7 [39.37] vs 111.5 [30.70] min/d, P < .001), and UH preschoolers were significantly less active than UL and RL preschoolers (UH 409.1 [48.4] vs UL 471.1 [55.6] and RL 461.6 [61.4], P < .001). Conclusion: In both practice and research, it is necessary to explore ways to ensure that South African preschoolers from all income settings continue to engage in and benefit from healthy volumes of PA. This is especially important as preschoolers transition to a formal school environment.