Research Study Abstract

Weight Status and Gender-Related Differences in Motor Skills and in Child Care – Based Physical Activity in Young Children

  • Added on March 9, 2012

Background Over the last decades, a decline in motor skills and in physical activity and an increase in obesity has been observed in children. However, there is a lack of data in young children. We tested if differences in motor skills and in physical activity according to weight or gender were already present in 2- to 4-year-old children.

Methods Fifty-eight child care centers in the French part of Switzerland were randomly selected for the Youp’la bouge study. Motor skills were assessed by an obstacle course including 5 motor skills, derived from the Zurich Neuromotor Assessment test. Physical activity was measured with accelerometers (GT1M, Actigraph, Florida, USA) using age-adapted cut-offs. Weight status was assessed using the International Obesity Task Force criteria (healthy weight vs overweight) for body mass index (BMI).

Results Of the 529 children (49% girls, 3.4 +/-0.6 years, BMI 16.2 +/- 1.2 kg/m2), 13% were overweight. There were no significant weight status-related differences in the single skills of the obstacle course, but there was a trend (p = 0.059) for a lower performance of overweight children in the overall motor skills score. No significant weight status-related differences in child care-based physical activity were observed. No gender-related differences were found in the overall motor skills score, but boys performed better than girls in 2 of the 5 motor skills (p ≤ 0.04). Total physical activity as well as time spent in moderate-vigorous and in vigorous activity during child care were 12-25% higher and sedentary activity 5% lower in boys compared to girls (all p < 0.01).

Conclusions At this early age, there were no significant weight status- or gender-related differences in global motor skills. However, in accordance to data in older children, child care-based physical activity was higher in boys compared to girls. These results are important to consider when establishing physical activity recommendations or targeting health promotion interventions in young children.

Link to abstract:


BMC Pediatrics


, ,