Relationships Among Physical Activity, Motor Skill Competence, Cardiovascular Fitness, Perceived Competence, and Cognition In Preschool Children

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Relationships Among Physical Activity, Motor Skill Competence, Cardiovascular Fitness, Perceived Competence, and Cognition In Preschool Children

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2018-06

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Early childhood is marked as one of the most critical and intensive periods of development in the human lifespan. Physical activity is a crucial contributor to health and cognition in early childhood, and therefore is considered to be a vital part of development. In this cross-sectional study, my purpose was to examine relationships among physical activity, motor skill competence, perceived physical competence, cardiovascular fitness, and cognition in preschool children, including possible gender differences in all variables. I recruited 65 preschool children (4-6 years old) from two local elementary schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Children’s 3 days physical activity during school time was assessed via Actigraph Link; motor skill competences was measured via Test of Gross Motor Development–Second Edition; perceived physical competence was assessed via Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance; cardiovascular fitness was assessed via a modified YMCA 3-Minute Step Test; and cognition was assessed via the computer-administered NIH Toolbox. Using IBM-SPSS 25.0 (IBM, Inc., Armonk, NY), I computed Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficients to determine the relationships among all outcomes. I used independent samples t-test to detect gender differences in all measures. I found that preschool children’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during school time was not significantly related to their motor skills competence (r = 0.182, p > 0.05), perceived competence (r = 0.121, p > 0.05), cardiovascular fitness (r = -0.141, p > 0.05), cognition (r = -0.095, p > 0.05), but their step counts were significantly positively related to motor skills competence (r = 0.282, p < 0.05), with preschool children’s motor skill competence was a significant predictor of step counts [F (4, 63) = 4.65, β = 0.12, p < 0.05, R2 = 0.24] after age, gender, and BMI were controlled. In addition, I found that perceived competence was significantly positively correlated with motor skills competence (r = 0.366, p < 0.01), and was a significant predictor of motor skills competence [F (4, 63) = 2.66, β = 0.26, p = 0.04, R2 = 0.15] in preschool children. Meanwhile, I observed that children’s cognition was significantly positively correlated with motor skills competence (r = 0.266, p < 0.01) and cardiovascular (r = 0.372, p < 0.01), respectively, but only cardiovascular fitness seemed to be a significant predictor of cognition [F (2, 62) = 4.52, β = 0.35, t = 2.73, p = 0.01, R2 = 0.14]. I observed significant mean differences in preschool children’s MVPA, with boys spending more time in MVPA as compared to girls (Mean: 41.72 mins vs. 36.87 mins, t = -2.04, p < 0.05, Cohen’s d = 0.51). I also found that boys took more steps per minute than girls (Mean: 22.26 vs. 19.11, t = -3.96, p < 0.01, Cohen’s d = 0.98). Last, I found that boys demonstrated higher motor skill competence than girls (Mean: 33.16 vs. 29.88, t = -2.13, p < 0.05, Cohen’s d = 0.53). The current study supports the need for effective strategies that simultaneously promote motor skill competence, cardiovascular fitness, cognition, and physical activity behaviors in early childhood. Future research with larger and more diverse samples is necessary to further explore the relationships of preschool children’s physical activity patterns (inside and outside of school) with other health-related fitness.

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University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.June 2018. Major: Kinesiology. Advisor: Zan Gao. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 159 pages.

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Zeng, Nan. (2018). Relationships Among Physical Activity, Motor Skill Competence, Cardiovascular Fitness, Perceived Competence, and Cognition In Preschool Children. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/216134.

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