Research Platform
Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
Obesity Prevention Study: A Physical Activity Program Improved Gross Motor Skills in Preschool Children
Author Affiliations
  • Colorado State University
Article Information
Obesity / School-Based Practice / Prevention and Intervention
Research Platform   |   July 01, 2015
Obesity Prevention Study: A Physical Activity Program Improved Gross Motor Skills in Preschool Children
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911515228.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911515228.

Date Presented 4/18/2015

A physical activity program, part of an obesity prevention study implemented by teachers in rural areas, improved the motor skills in children. This study demonstrates that programs developed by an interdisciplinary team, including occupational therapists (OTs), affected healthy outcomes in young children in underserved areas.

SIGNIFICANCE: Obesity rates have risen over the last few decades among children. The preschool years provide an opportunity to establish heathy physical activity behaviors that can lower obesity rates. The Mighty Moves program was implemented in Head Start centers as part of an obesity prevention study. The Mighty Moves program was developed by an interdisciplinary team and was designed to be led by preschool teachers to enhance motor performance and physical activity.
INNOVATION: Might Moves is an 18-wk program that focuses on gross motor skills consisting of 72 lessons that are led by the teacher. Because low-income, ethnic minority preschoolers are at greatest risk for obesity, Head Start centers were targeted in our study. The Mighty Moves program is uniquely designed to be implemented in rural and underserved areas, where risk of obesity is pronounced.
APPROACH: We hypothesized that young children in Head Start who receive the Mighty Moves program will demonstrate increased motor skills compared with children in Head Start centers who do not receive the Mighty Moves program. With the increase of obesity in children, it is important to develop interventions to prevent obesity at a young age. Reported rates of obesity in children are much higher in rural areas compared with the state rates. Obesity in childhood leads to a greater probability of becoming obese in adulthood. Preschool years are a time to provide interventions to promote enhanced levels of physical activity.
METHOD: We used a quasi-experimental design, and the setting was rural Head Start centers. Participants included children (N = 218; 56% girls; 56.1 ± 4.2 mo of age) attending five Head Start preschool centers (two intervention centers [n = 126] and three control centers [n = 92]). The Bruininks–Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency—Second Edition (BOT–2) was used to measure gross motor skills at baseline (Time 1) and 6 mo later (postintervention [Time 2]). Subtests on balance, running speed and agility, upper-limb coordination (ball skills), and strength were administered. At baseline, t tests were conducted to determine that the two groups did not differ. Repeated analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted for total scores of each of the BOT–2 subtests to determine changes from Time 1 to Time 2 and differences between groups.
RESULTS: A significant Group × Time interaction was found for balance (p < .05) and speed/agility (p < .05), indicating that the intervention group demonstrated a significant increase in these skills compared to the control group. Upper-limb coordination approached significance (p = .077). For strength, only a significant time effect was found, indicating that both groups improved in a similar amount from Time 1 to Time 2. No significant differences between groups at baseline were found for the four BOT–2 subtests, body mass index, or gender.
CONCLUSION: Children who received the Mighty Moves program in Head Start classrooms demonstrated significant increases in balance and speed/agility skills from Time 1 to Time 2 compared with the children in the control group. Future studies should be conducted to determine the relationship between motor skills and physical activity. Interventions provided in child care/educational settings, such as Head Start, can have an impact on motor skill development in young children.