Preschool children and physical activity: a review of correlates

Am J Prev Med. 2008 May;34(5):435-441. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.02.001.


Background: Several reviews have summarized the research on correlates of older children's and adolescents' physical activity behaviors, but none have been published on preschool children. Over the past 27 years, a number of studies have investigated the correlates of preschool children's physical activity behaviors. It is timely and necessary to review the extant literature in this area. This paper reviews articles investigating correlates of preschool children's physical activity behaviors published in peer-reviewed journals between 1980 and March 2007.

Methods: A literature search was conducted to identify studies that investigated correlates of preschool children's physical activity. Data were collected and analyzed in 2007.

Results: Twenty-four articles were identified that met the inclusion criteria. From those articles, 39 variables were identified across five domains. Results showed that boys were more active than girls, that children with active parents tended to be more active, and that children who spent more time outdoors were more active than children who spent less time outdoors. Age and BMI were consistently shown to have no association with preschool children's physical activity. Other variables produced largely inconclusive results.

Conclusions: The influences on the physical activity behaviors of preschool children are multidimensional. Further research is required to enhance an understanding of these influences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Welfare
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*