Quality of Life Research

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 185–193 | Cite as

The roles of physical activity and sedentary behavior on Hispanic children’s mental health: a motor skill perspective

  • Xiangli Gu
  • M. Jean Keller
  • Karen H. Weiller-Abels
  • Tao Zhang



Motor competence (MC) has been recognized as the foundation for life-time moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) as well as an influential factor in reducing sedentary behavior during childhood. Guided by Blair et al.’s health model, the purpose of this study was to examine the behavioral mechanism of mental health including physical, psychosocial, and cognitive health among Hispanic children related to MC and MVPA.


A prospective research design was used with two-wave assessments across one academic year. A total of 141 Hispanic kindergarteners (Meanage = 5.37, SD = 0.48) were recruited in Texas. Nearly all (94.3%) of the participants were from low-income families based on the Income Eligibility Guidelines. The study was approved by the University Research Review Board, and informed consent was obtained from parents/guardians prior to starting the study.


Multiple regressions indicated that manipulative skill was a significant predictor of physical and psychosocial health (β = 0.21, β = 0.26, p < 0.05, respectively) and locomotor skill served as a significant predictor for cognitive health (β = 0.22, p < 0.01), after controlling for BMI. Bootstrapping analyses supported the statistical significance of indirect effects of MC on mental health outcomes through MVPA (95% CI [0.031, 0.119]) and sedentary behavior (95% CI [0.054, 0.235]), respectively.


The results suggest that skill-based activities/games, with instructions, should be encouraged during school-based physical activity and health promotion programs in childhood education. Better understanding of the early effects of MC may contribute to designing strategies to promote Hispanic children’s well-being.


Motor competence MVPA Sedentary behavior Mental health 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in our study were in accordance with ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiangli Gu
    • 1
  • M. Jean Keller
    • 2
  • Karen H. Weiller-Abels
    • 2
  • Tao Zhang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion, and RecreationUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.University of North TexasDentonUSA

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