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Preschool-Based Physical Activity Interventions in African American and Latino Preschoolers: A Literature Review

Sofiya Alhassan, Christine W. St. Laurent, and Sarah Burkart

The purpose of this review was to assess the effectiveness of physical activity (PA) interventions in African American and Latino/Hispanic preschool children. A systematic search was conducted for English-language printed research articles published between January 1980 and December 2017. The inclusion criteria for studies in this review were that they were experimental PA studies conducted in the preschool setting in the United States that targeted African American/Black or Latino/Hispanic children between the ages of 2.9 and 5 years. A total of 1,533 articles were located, of which 10 met the inclusion criteria. Overall, studies reported positive changes in preschool-day PA levels, yet only 2 reported significant improvements in total daily PA. Limited scientific literature suggests that preschool-based interventions are effective in improving aspects of PA during the preschool day for children of color. However, minimal evidence exists on the effectiveness of these interventions in changing total daily PA.

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Behavioral Effects of a Locomotor-Based Physical Activity Intervention in Preschoolers

Sarah Burkart, Jasmin Roberts, Matthew C. Davidson, and Sofiya Alhassan

Background: Poor adaptive learning behaviors (ie, distractibility, inattention, and disruption) are associated with behavior problems and underachievement in school, as well as indicating potential attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Strategies are needed to limit these behaviors. Physical activity (PA) has been suggested to improve behavior in school-aged children, but little is known about this relationship in preschoolers. This study examined the effects of a PA intervention on classroom behaviors in preschool-aged children. Methods:Eight preschool classrooms (n = 71 children; age = 3.8 ± 0.7 y) with children from low socioeconomic environments were randomized to a locomotor-based PA (LB-PA) or unstructured free playtime (UF-PA) group. Both interventions were implemented by classroom teachers and delivered for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week for 6 months. Classroom behavior was measured in both groups at 3 time points, whereas PA was assessed at 2 time points over a 6-month period and analyzed with hierarchical linear modeling. Results:Linear growth models showed significant decreases in hyperactivity (LB-PA: −2.58 points, P = .001; UF-PA: 2.33 points, P = .03), aggression (LB-PA: −2.87 points, P = .01; UF-PA: 0.97 points, P = .38) and inattention (LB-PA: 1.59 points, P < .001; UF-PA: 3.91 points, P < .001). Conclusions: This research provides promising evidence for the efficacy of LB-PA as a strategy to improve classroom behavior in preschoolers.

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Influence of Age on Neuromuscular Control during a Dynamic Weight-Bearing Task

Sangeetha Madhavan, Sarah Burkart, Gail Baggett, Katie Nelson, Trina Teckenburg, Mike Zwanziger, and Richard K. Shields

Neuromuscular control strategies might change with age and predispose the elderly to knee-joint injury. The purposes of this study were to determine whether long latency responses (LLRs), muscle-activation patterns, and movement accuracy differ between the young and elderly during a novel single-limb-squat (SLS) task. Ten young and 10 elderly participants performed a series of resistive SLSs (~0–30°) while matching a computer-generated sinusoidal target. The SLS device provided a 16% body-weight resistance to knee movement. Both young and elderly showed significant overshoot error when the knee was perturbed (p < .05). Accuracy of the tracking task was similar between the young and elderly (p = .34), but the elderly required more muscle activity than the younger participants (p < .05). The elderly group had larger LLRs than the younger group (p < .05). These results support the hypothesis that neuromuscular control of the knee changes with age and might contribute to injury.

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Feasibility of Integrating Physical Activity Into Early Education Learning Standards on Preschooler’s Physical Activity Levels

Sofiya Alhassan, Christine W. St. Laurent, Sarah Burkart, Cory J. Greever, and Matthew N. Ahmadi

Background: For a health behavior intervention to be sustainable within preschool centers, the intervention should be implemented by classroom teachers. Unfortunately, teachers are constrained by demands such as meeting early childhood education standards. Therefore, the purpose of this pilot study was to examine the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of integrating a health behavior intervention into early education learning standards on physical activity (PA), diet, and sleep (PADS) behavior of preschoolers. Methods: Two preschool centers were randomized to either the PADS (children, n = 60) or the control (CON; children, n = 54) group. The PADS intervention consisted of PADS lesson plans and activities embedded into Massachusetts early learning standards and were implemented for 4 days per week for 12 weeks. The CON preschool participated in their usual curriculum. PA was assessed using accelerometers for 7 consecutive days at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. Other outcome variables were assessed with parental surveys at baseline and 12 weeks. Results: Significant group by time interactions were observed for moderate to vigorous PA (percentage of time) during the preschool day (PADS: baseline = 10.6% (4.2%), 12 wk = 13.2% (2.3%); CON: baseline = 12.4% (3.9%), 12 wk = 11.2% (3.6%); P = .02). Conclusion: This pilot study provides preliminary evidence that integrating health behaviors into learning standards is feasible and potentially an effective way for increasing preschoolers’ PA levels.

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Physical Activity, Fitness, School Readiness, and Cognition in Early Childhood: A Systematic Review

Christine W. St. Laurent, Sarah Burkart, Chloe Andre, and Rebecca M.C. Spencer

Background: Early childhood is an important age for brain and cognitive development. Given the support of physical activity and fitness on cognition and academic performance in older children, more research has emerged recently focusing on younger children. In this systematic review, the authors review the relations between physical activity/fitness and academic-related (ie, school readiness and cognitive) outcomes in early childhood. Methods: A search was conducted from PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, ERIC databases, and reference lists for articles that had participants aged less than 6 years were written in English, and were in peer-reviewed journals. Articles were excluded if the design was a case study or case series report. The Grading Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation framework was followed to assess the quality of evidence by study design. Results: Sixty-eight articles reporting on 72 studies (29 observational and 43 experimental) were included. The majority of study effects were mixed, and the quality of evidence varied from very low to low. Conclusions: A clear consensus about the role of physical activity and fitness on academic-related outcomes in early childhood is still lacking given the high heterogeneity in methodological approaches and overall effects. Additional high-quality studies are needed to determine what specific dosages of physical activity are impactful at this age.

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Energy Expenditure for 70 Activities in Children and Adolescents

Jeffer Eidi Sasaki, Cheryl A. Howe, Dinesh John, Amanda Hickey, Jeremy Steeves, Scott Conger, Kate Lyden, Sarah Kozey-Keadle, Sarah Burkart, Sofiya Alhassan, David Bassett Jr, and Patty S. Freedson


Thirty-five percent of the activities assigned MET values in the Compendium of Energy Expenditures for Youth were obtained from direct measurement of energy expenditure (EE). The aim of this study was to provide directly measured EE for several different activities in youth.


Resting metabolic rate (RMR) of 178 youths (80 females, 98 males) was first measured. Participants then performed structured activity bouts while wearing a portable metabolic system to directly measure EE. Steady-state oxygen consumption data were used to compute activity METstandard (activity VO2/3.5) and METmeasured (activity VO2/measured RMR) for the different activities.


Rates of EE were measured for 70 different activities and ranged from 1.9 to 12.0 METstandard and 1.5 to 10.0 METmeasured.


This study provides directly measured energy cost values for 70 activities in children and adolescents. It contributes empirical data to support the expansion of the Compendium of Energy Expenditures for Youth.