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Pediatrics. 2009 Feb;123(2):e261-6. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2498.

Policies and characteristics of the preschool environment and physical activity of young children.

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  • 1Departments of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.



The purpose of this study was to examine policies and characteristics of preschools and the extent to which they influence the physical activity of 3- to 5-year-old children during the preschool day.


A total of 299 children from 20 preschools wore accelerometers for an average of 8.1 hours/day (SD: 1.5 hours/day), for 5.5 days (SD: 2.1 days). A researcher completed the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised for each preschool to assess quality. Classrooms and playgrounds were measured, and the preschool director was interviewed about physical activity policies. For each policy or characteristic, preschools were divided into 2 groups on the basis of whether the characteristic/policy was presumed to promote or not promote physical activity.


Children spent fewer minutes per hour in sedentary activity and more minutes per hour in moderate/vigorous physical activity in preschools that had higher quality scores, less fixed playground equipment, more portable playground equipment, lower use of electronic media, and larger playgrounds. Five preschools had all 5 of these characteristics, and children in those preschools had significantly more moderate/vigorous physical activity minutes per hour and fewer sedentary minutes per hour compared with children in the other preschools.


Children in the top 5 physical activity-promoting preschools accumulated >60 minutes of moderate/vigorous physical activity per day, compared with the children in the other preschools, who accumulated <60 minutes of moderate/vigorous physical activity per day.

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