Objective: To compare the physical activity levels of overweight and non overweight 3- to 5-y-old children while attending preschool. A secondary aim was to evaluate weight-related differences in hypothesized parental determinants of child physical activity behavior.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Subjects: A total of 245, 3- to 5-y-olds (127 girls, 118 boys) and their parent(s) (242 mothers, 173 fathers) recruited from nine preschools. Overweight status determined using the age- and sex-specific 85th percentile for body mass index (BMI) from CDC Growth Charts.
Measurements: Physical activity during the preschool day was assessed on multiple days via two independent objective measures-direct observation using the observation system for recording activity in preschools (OSRAP) and real-time accelerometry using the MTI/CSA 7164 accelerometer. Parents completed a take-home survey assessing sociodemographic information, parental height and weight, modeling of physical activity, support for physical activity, active toys and sporting equipment at home, child's television watching, frequency of park visitation, and perceptions of child competence.
Results: Overweight boys were significantly less active than their nonoverweight peers during the preschool day. No significant differences were observed in girls. Despite a strong association between childhood overweight status and parental obesity, no significant differences were observed for the hypothesized parental influences on physical activity behavior.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that a significant proportion of overweight children may be at increased risk for further gains in adiposity because of low levels of physical activity during the preschool day.