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Logo of bmcpediBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Pediatrics
BMC Pediatr. 2012; 12: 23.
Published online Mar 9, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-2431-12-23
PMCID: PMC3324371
Weight status and gender-related differences in motor skills and in child care - based physical activity in young children
Antoine Bonvin,corresponding author1 Jérôme Barral,1 Tanja H Kakebeeke,2 Susi Kriemler,3 Anouk Longchamp,4 Pedro Marques-Vidal,5 and Jardena J Puder5
1Institute of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne, Bâtiments administratifs de Vidy, Route de Chavannes 33, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
2Child Development Center, University Children's Hospital, 8032 Zürich, Switzerland
3Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, University of Basel, Socinstrasse 57, 4002 Basel, Switzerland
4Health League, Rue de la Mouline 8, 1022 Chavannes-près-Renens, Switzerland
5Service of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, University of Lausanne, Rue du Bugnon 46, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Antoine Bonvin: antoine.bonvin/at/; Jérôme Barral: jerome.barral/at/; Tanja H Kakebeeke: tanja.kakebeeke/at/; Susi Kriemler: susi.kriemler/at/; Anouk Longchamp: anouk.longchamp/at/; Pedro Marques-Vidal: pedro-manuel.Marques-Vidal/at/; Jardena J Puder: jardena.puder/at/
Received July 25, 2011; Accepted March 9, 2012.
Over the last decades, a decline in motor skills and in physical activity and an increase in obesity has been observed in children. However, there is a lack of data in young children. We tested if differences in motor skills and in physical activity according to weight or gender were already present in 2- to 4-year-old children.
Fifty-eight child care centers in the French part of Switzerland were randomly selected for the Youp'là bouge study. Motor skills were assessed by an obstacle course including 5 motor skills, derived from the Zurich Neuromotor Assessment test. Physical activity was measured with accelerometers (GT1M, Actigraph, Florida, USA) using age-adapted cut-offs. Weight status was assessed using the International Obesity Task Force criteria (healthy weight vs overweight) for body mass index (BMI).
Of the 529 children (49% girls, 3.4 ± 0.6 years, BMI 16.2 ± 1.2 kg/m2), 13% were overweight. There were no significant weight status-related differences in the single skills of the obstacle course, but there was a trend (p = 0.059) for a lower performance of overweight children in the overall motor skills score. No significant weight status-related differences in child care-based physical activity were observed. No gender-related differences were found in the overall motor skills score, but boys performed better than girls in 2 of the 5 motor skills (p ≤ 0.04). Total physical activity as well as time spent in moderate-vigorous and in vigorous activity during child care were 12-25% higher and sedentary activity 5% lower in boys compared to girls (all p < 0.01).
At this early age, there were no significant weight status- or gender-related differences in global motor skills. However, in accordance to data in older children, child care-based physical activity was higher in boys compared to girls. These results are important to consider when establishing physical activity recommendations or targeting health promotion interventions in young children.
Keywords: Children, Motor skills, Physical activity, Gender, Overweight, Youp'là bouge
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