Evidence shows that physical activity in early childhood has a positive impact on children’s health and development and on activity levels later in life. These benefits are not only short-term, but also remain through adolescence and into adulthood.
Whilst we are starting to learn more about young children’s physical activity, we currently know very little about how and where children are active, particularly in the UK. The limited information we have suggests that children’s activity levels vary greatly both over the course of the day and throughout the week, and may depend on where they are. As children now spend increasingly large amounts of time in childcare, we believe that the physical and social environment at the preschool, as well as at home, could play an important role in influencing children’s health behaviours.
The Studying Physical Activity in Children and their Environment (SPACE) study was a cross-sectional observational study aiming to assess the impact of preschool attendance and the preschool environment on children’s activity levels, and elicit opinions about health behaviours from the preschool carers responsible for young children.
A total of 247 children (3-4 years) attending nursery schools or preschool centres in Cambridge and the surrounding area were recruited from 30 settings. Measures include physical activity for up to 7 days using (combined heart-rate monitor and movement sensing), anthropometric data (height, weight, skinfolds), direct observation of preschool environment (Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation; EPAO); questionnaires for parents, carers and setting managers.
The evidence collected will help to design programmes to make sure all preschool-aged children have the opportunity to be as active as possible throughout the day.