Environmental factors associated with physical activity in childcare centers

Background:
Child care centers influence physical activity levels among children, yet little is known about the specific aspects of the environment that support generous amounts of activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the practices, and environmental aspects of the child care center that are associated with children’s moderate and vigorous physical activity.
Methods:
Thirty-five child care centers serving 389 3 to 5 year old children were assessed for: 1) environmental characteristics of the center; and 2) staff practices related to child physical activity. Children’s physical activity was measured using accelerometers over a single day in child care.
Results:
Fourteen percent (an average of 9 minutes per waking hour) were spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The strongest environmental predictors of MVPA were: time spent in outdoor play, suitability of indoor play space, and teacher encouragement of (but not participation in) indoor play.
Conclusions:
In order to reach the U.S. recommended 120 minutes of physical activity per day, significant changes will need to occur in the child care setting, including increased time outdoors and more opportunities for indoor physical activity.

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