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Exploring the importance of diversified physical activities in early childhood for later motor competence and physical activity level: a seven-year longitudinal study

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BACKGROUND: Research indicates that childhood motor competence (MC) can predict physical activity (PA) levels later in life and it has been argued that frequently engaging in a wide diversity of physical activities will eventually improve children's MC. However, no longitudinal or experimental studies have confirmed this theoretical rationale. The aims of this study are to explore the longitudinal associations between diversified physical activities at age six and later MC and PA (time spent in moderate-to-vigorous PA) (age nine and 13). Furthermore, we explore to what extent the longitudinal association between diversified physical activity and PA is mediated by MC.

METHODS: Longitudinal data from the Copenhagen School Intervention Study were used for this analysis, where 704 participated (69% response rate). Diversified physical activity (self-reported), MC (The Körperkoordinationstest für Kinder battery of postural stability and locomotor skills) and PA (accelerometer) were assessed in the children at age six, age nine and age 13. A total of 654 participated in at least two of the measures and, therefore, were included in the analysis. Two structural equation models were constructed, with diversified physical activity at age six and MC and PA at age nine as predictors of PA and MC at age 13.

RESULTS: The data from both models demonstrated good model fit. Diversified physical activity at 6 years of age was significantly associated with physical activity and MC at age 13, when adjusting for sex, age, intervention, weight, height, and previous levels of PA and MC. Diversified physical activity at age six was also positively associated with PA and MC at age nine, which were, in turn, positively related to PA at age 13 but to a lesser degree than diversified PA at age six. The association between diversified physical activity at age six and PA at age 13 was not mediated by MC at age nine.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study indicate that diversified physical activity at age six is important for the development of MC and PA in adolescence. Increasing the diversity of children's daily physical activities, not only the amount and intensity, seems important for future PA behavior and thereby health promotion in a life course perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1492
JournalBMC PUBLIC HEALTH
Volume21
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1492
ISSN1471-2458
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2021

    Research areas

  • Adolescent, Child, Child, Preschool, Exercise, Health Promotion, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Motor Activity, Motor Skills, Motor skills, Physical literacy, Diversified physical activity, CoSCIS, Recreational activities, Childhood, SEM, MVPA, Leisure time

ID: 67382807