Early childhood physical activity, sedentary behaviors and psychosocial well-being: a systematic review

Prev Med. 2014 May;62:182-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.02.007. Epub 2014 Feb 15.


Objectives: Little is known about how health behaviors such as physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviors (SB) may be associated with psychosocial well-being during the crucial early childhood period. The aim of this study was to undertake a systematic review of associations between PA, SB and psychosocial well-being during early childhood.

Methods: In February 2013, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus and Embase electronic databases were searched. Inclusion criteria were: 1. peer-reviewed publication since 1980 in English; 2. children aged birth-5 years; 3. PA or SB measured during early childhood; 4. an indicator of child psychosocial well-being; and 5. association between PA/SB and psychosocial well-being reported. Studies could be observational or interventions. Data were extracted by one author and entered into a standardized form in February and March 2013.

Results: 19 studies were identified: four examined PA, 13 examined SB and two examined PA and SB. No interventions met the inclusion criteria; all included studies were observational. In total, 21 indicators of psychosocial well-being were examined, 13 only once with the remaining eight reported in more than one study. Some dose-response evidence was identified suggesting that PA is positively, and SB inversely, associated with psychosocial well-being.

Conclusions: Too few studies exist to draw conclusions regarding associations. Future high-quality cohort and intervention studies are warranted particularly investigating dose-response associations.

Keywords: Early childhood; Electronic screen use; Physical activity; Psychosocial well-being; Systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Sedentary Behavior*