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Correlates of Fundamental Motor Skills in the Early Years (0–4 Years): A Systematic Review

Sanne L.C. Veldman, Jessica S. Gubbels, Amika S. Singh, Johan M. Koedijker, Mai J.M. Chinapaw, and Teatske M. Altenburg

Aim: This systematic review aims to summarize evidence on correlates of fundamental motor skills in typically developing children aged 0–4 years. Methods: A literature search (PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, and SPORTDiscus) was performed from 2000 till 23 May 2022. Inclusion criteria was cross-sectional and prospective studies examining associations between a potential correlate and fundamental motor skills in typically developing, apparently healthy children aged 0–4 years. Two independent reviewers performed screening and methodological quality assessment. Results: Eighty-three studies met eligibility criteria and were included. Thirteen studies were of high methodological quality. In children aged <1 year, we found no evidence for family income, breastfeeding-related, sleep-related, home environment, and socioeconomic variables. In children aged 1–2 years, we found no evidence for sex, growth-related variables, singleton birth, and family income. In children aged 2–4 years, we found no evidence for screen behavior, toxicity, parental education, family income, socioeconomic variables, and maternal depression/anxiety and moderate evidence for a positive association with early childhood education and care setting type. For other examined correlates, we found insufficient evidence (inconsistent findings or only one study available). Conclusions: We found insufficient evidence for over half of examined potential correlates of fundamental motor skills. We recommend investing in better research methodologies and improved reporting.

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Objectively Measured Sedentary Levels and Bouts by Day Type in Australian Young Children

João R. Pereira, Dylan P. Cliff, Eduarda Sousa-Sá, Zhiguang Zhang, Jade McNeill, Sanne L.C. Veldman, and Rute Santos

Background: This study aimed to understand whether a higher number of sedentary bouts (SED bouts) and higher levels of sedentary time (SED time) occur according to different day types (childcare days, nonchildcare weekdays, and weekends) in Australian toddlers (1–2.99 y) and preschoolers (3–5.99 y). Methods: The SED time and bouts were assessed using ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometers. The sample was composed of 264 toddlers and 343 preschoolers. The SED bouts and time differences were calculated using linear mixed models. Results: The toddlers’ percentage of SED time was higher on nonchildcare days compared with childcare days (mean difference [MD] = 2.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.7 to 3.9). The toddlers had a higher number of 1- to 4-minute SED bouts on nonchildcare days compared with childcare days. The preschoolers presented higher percentages of SED time during nonchildcare days (MD = 3.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.6 to 4.5) and weekends (MD = 1.9; 95% confidence interval, 0.4 to 3.4) compared with childcare days. The preschoolers presented a higher number of SED bouts (1–4, 5–9, 10–19, and 20–30 min) during nonchildcare days and weekends compared with childcare days. No SED times or bout differences were found between nonchildcare days and weekends, neither SED bouts >30 minutes on toddlers nor on preschoolers. Conclusion: The SED time and bouts seem to be lower during childcare periods, which means that interventions to reduce sedentary time should consider targeting nonchildcare days and weekends.

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Promoting Physical Activity and Executive Functions Among Children: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial of an After-School Program in Australia

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.