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Karen Tonge, Rachel A. Jones, and Anthony D. Okely

Background: To examine the relationship between attributes of early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings and children’s physical activity and sedentary behavior. Methods: Cross-sectional study involving 490 children aged 2–5 years from 11 ECECs. The ECEC routine, size of the outdoor environment, and time spent in the outdoor environment were calculated for each center. Children’s physical activity and sedentary time were measured using accelerometers. Multivariate linear regressions were used to examine associations of the attributes of ECEC centers with the outcome variables, adjusting for the effects of center clustering and gender. Results: Children in ECECs that offered free routines (where children can move freely between indoor and outdoor environments) had lower levels of sedentary time (28.27 min/h vs 33.15 min/h; P = .001) and spent more time in total physical activity (7.99 min/h vs 6.57 min/h; P = .008) and moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (9.49 min/h vs 7.31 min/h; P = .008). Children in ECECs with an outdoor environment >400 m2 had less sedentary time (28.94 min/h vs 32.42 min/h; P = .012) than those with areas <400 m2. Conclusion: Modifiable practices such as offering a free routine and increasing time spent in outdoor environments could potentially offer an easy and sustainable way for ECEC centers to promote physical activity and reduce sedentary time among children.

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Simone A. Tomaz, Alessandra Prioreschi, Estelle D. Watson, Joanne A. McVeigh, Dale E. Rae, Rachel A. Jones, and Catherine E. Draper

Background: Limited research reports on the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and physical activity (PA), sedentary behavior (SB), sleep, and gross motor skills (GMS) in low- and middle-income countries. The aim of this study was to (1) describe BMI, PA, SB, sleep duration, and GMS proficiency in South African preschool children and (2) identify relationships between variables. Methods: BMI, including z scores for height, weight, and BMI were determined. Seven-day PA, SB, and sleep were measured using accelerometry. GMS were assessed using the Test of Gross Motor Development (second edition). Associations were explored by comparing sleep, PA, SB, and GMS between BMI tertiles using the Kruskal–Wallis test. Results: Most (86%) children (n = 78, 50% boys) had a healthy BMI (15.7 [1.3] kg/m2). Children spent 560.5 (52.9) minutes per day in light- to vigorous-intensity PA and 90.9 (30.0) minutes per day in moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA; most (83%) met the current PA guideline. Nocturnal sleep duration was low (9.28 [0.80] h/d). Although daytime naps increased 24-hour sleep duration (10.17 [0.71] h/d), 38% were classified as short sleepers. Around half (54.9%) of participants complied with both PA and sleep guidelines. No associations between variables were found. Conclusion: Despite being lean, sufficiently active, and having adequate GMS, many children were short sleepers, highlighting a possible area for intervention.

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Estelle D. Watson, Mireille N. M. Van Poppel, Rachel A. Jones, Shane A Norris, and Lisa K. Micklesfield

Background:

Although physical activity during pregnancy may be beneficial, the prenatal period is a vulnerable time for decreasing physical activity levels and increasing sedentary time.

Methods:

This longitudinal cohort study measured physical activity using the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ) in singleton, pregnant women in the second (14–18 wk gestation; n = 332) and third trimester (29–33 wk; n = 256).

Results:

There was a significant decrease in total MVPA (MET mins/wk) between the second and third trimester (P = .01). The majority of physical activity time was spent in walking for transport (80%), and less than 2% in recreational activities. In both trimesters, being married was inversely associated with walking for transport (second trimester: β = –0.12 95% CI = –0.31 to –0.02, third trimester: β = –0.17 95% CI = –0.47 to –0.07) and owning a car was positively associated with recreational physical activity (second trimester: β = 0.16 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.32, third trimester: β = 0.17 95% CI = 0.04 to 0.27). The women spent an average of 5 hours per day sitting.

Conclusions:

The low and declining levels of physical activity during pregnancy in this population are a concern. Interventions that include lifestyle education and provision of accessible recreational physical activity programs for pregnant women are needed.

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Sanne L.C. Veldman, Rachel A. Jones, Rebecca M. Stanley, Dylan P. Cliff, Stewart A. Vella, Steven J. Howard, Anne-Maree Parrish, and Anthony D. Okely

Background: The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy of an embedded after-school intervention, on promoting physical activity and academic achievement in primary-school-aged children. Methods: This 6-month, 2-arm cluster randomized controlled trial involved 4 after-school centers. Two centers were randomly assigned to the intervention, which involved training the center staff on and implementing structured physical activity (team sports and physical activity sessions for 75 min) and academic enrichment activities (45 min). The activities were implemented 3 afternoons per week for 2.5 hours. The control centers continued their usual after-school care practice. After-school physical activity (accelerometry) and executive functions (working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility) were assessed pre- and postintervention. Results: A total of 60 children were assessed (7.7 [1.8] y; 50% girls) preintervention and postintervention (77% retention rate). Children in the intervention centers spent significantly more time in moderate to vigorous physical activity (adjusted difference = 2.4%; 95% confidence interval, 0.6 to 4.2; P = .026) and scored higher on cognitive flexibility (adjusted difference = 1.9 units; 95% confidence interval, 0.9 to 3.0; P = .009). About 92% of the intervention sessions were implemented. The participation rates varied between 51% and 94%. Conclusion: This after-school intervention was successful at increasing moderate to vigorous physical activity and enhancing cognitive flexibility in children. As the intervention was implemented by the center staff and local university students, further testing for effectiveness and scalability in a larger trial is required.