Preschoolers are not meeting physical activity recommendations and are spending an extensive amount of their day sedentary. Interventions targeting teacher-led strategies can benefit children’s physical activity levels the most. The purpose of this feasibility study was to examine the effects of an indoor teacher-guided and -led preschool physical activity intervention in low-income schools. Sixty-six preschoolers and twelve preschool teachers participated in this study. Intact classrooms were randomly assigned to either an intervention or control group. A 2 × 3 mixed ANOVA was used to test changes by group and time. Follow-up measurements included Post-hoc analysis. There was a significant group by time interaction in children’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) levels during indoor time (p = 0.036) and a significant effect on time in children’s MVPA levels during outdoor time (p = 0.002). Teacher’s identified that when planned, physical activity opportunities are easy to implement during indoor time. Moreover, teachers indicated that they enjoyed providing physical activity opportunities into the classroom setting and the children enjoyed participating in the activities implemented. Teachers identified implementation barriers could be correlated with decreased levels of children’s physical activity. Our findings show that a teacher-guided and -led indoor preschool physical activity intervention is a feasible approach that can acutely increase children’s MVPA levels.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The datasets and coding generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Alabama Department of Public Health. (2014). Building a healthy start module 2: Promoting physical activity for infants and toddlers in early childhood settings. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from http://adph.org/healthystart/assets/PhysicalActivityToddlers.pdf
Annesi, J. J., Smith, A. E., & Tennant, G. A. (2013). Effects of the start for life treatment on physical activity in primarily African American preschool children of ages 3–5 years. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 18(3), 300–309. https://doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2012.712704
Bailey, R. C., Olson, J. O. D. I., Pepper, S. L., Porszasz, J. A. N. O. S., Barstow, T. J., & Cooper, D. M. (1995). The level and tempo of children’s physical activities: An observational study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 27(7), 1033–1041. https://doi.org/10.1249/00005768-199507000-00012
Baranowski, T., Thompson, W. O., Durant, R. H., Baranowski, J., & Puhl, J. (1993). Observations on physical activity in physical locations: Ager gender, ethnicity, and month effects. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64(2), 127–133. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.1993.10608789
Brown, W. H., Pfeiffer, K. A., McIver, K. L., Dowda, M., Addy, C. L., & Pate, R. R. (2009). Social and environmental factors associated with preschoolers’ non-sedentary physical activity. Child Development, 80(1), 45–58. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01245.x
Butte, N. F., Wong, W. W., Lee, J. S., Adolph, A. L., Puyau, M. R., & Zakeri, I. F. (2014). Prediction of energy expenditure and physical activity in preschoolers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(6), 1216. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000000209
Byun, W., Blair, S. N., & Pate, R. R. (2013). Objectively measured sedentary behavior in preschool children: Comparison between Montessori and traditional preschools. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(1), 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-10-2
Carlson, J. A., Mignano, A. M., Norman, G. J., McKenzie, T. L., Kerr, J., Arredondo, E. M., Madanat, H., Cain, K. L., Elder, J. P., Saelens, B. E., & Sallis, J. F. (2014). Socioeconomic disparities in elementary school practices and children’s physical activity during school. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(3_suppl), S47–S53. https://doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.130430-quan-206
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020a). Physical activity facts. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020b). Physical activity prevents chronic disease. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/physical-activity.htm
Cheung, P. (2020). Teachers as role models for physical activity: Are preschool children more active when their teachers are active? European Physical Education Review, 26(1), 101–110. https://doi.org/10.1177/1356336x19835240
Copeland, K. A., Kendeigh, C. A., Saelens, B. E., Kalkwarf, H. J., & Sherman, S. N. (2012). Physical activity in child-care centers: Do teachers hold the key to the playground? Health Education Research, 27(1), 81–100. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyr038
Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age (3rd ed.). National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Costa, S., Barber, S. E., Cameron, N., & Clemes, S. A. (2014). Calibration and validation of the ActiGraph GT3X+ in 2–3 year olds. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(6), 617–622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2013.11.005
Dowda, M., Brown, W. H., McIver, K. L., Pfeiffer, K. A., O’Neill, J. R., Addy, C. L., & Pate, R. R. (2009). Policies and characteristics of the preschool environment and physical activity of young children. Pediatrics, 123(2), e261–e266. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2008-2498
Fossdal, T. S., Kippe, K., Handegård, B. H., & Lagestad, P. (2018). “Oh oobe doo, I wanna be like you” associations between physical activity of preschool staff and preschool children. PLoS ONE, 13(11), e0208001. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208001
Gibson, E. L., Kreichuaf, S., Wildgruber, A., Vogele, C., Summerbell, C. D., Nixon, C., Moore, H., Douthwaite, W., Manios, Y., & ToyBox-Study Group. (2012). A narrative review of psychological and educational strategies applied to young children’s eating behaviors aimed at reducing obesity risk. Obesity Review, 13, 85–95. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789x.2011.00939.x
Gordon, E. S., Tucker, P., Burke, S. M., & Carron, A. V. (2013). Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for preschoolers: A meta-analysis. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 84(3), 287–294. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2013.813894
Henderson, K. E., Grode, G. M., O’Connell, M. L., & Schwartz, M. B. (2015). Environmental factors associated with physical activity in childcare centers. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12, 43–51. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-015-0198-0
Hinkley, T., Crawford, D., Salmon, J., Okely, A. D., & Hesketh, K. (2008). Preschool children and physical activity: A review of correlates. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 34(5), 435–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2008.02.001
Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A. G. (2010). Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7(40), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-7-40
Jones, R. A., Hinkley, T., Okely, A. D., & Salmon, J. (2013). Tracking physical activity and sedentary behavior in childhood: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(6), 651–658. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2013.03.001
Jurakic, D., & Pedisic, Z. (2012). Prevalence of insufficient physical activity in children and adolescents: Review. Paediatria Croatica, 56(56), 321–326.
Kahan, D., Nicaise, V., & Reuben, K. (2016). Effects of a bug-in-the-ear intervention to increase physical activity prompting and level during preschool recess. The Physical Educator. https://doi.org/10.18666/tpe-2016-v73-i3-6415
Kirk, S. M., Vizcarra, C. R., Looney, E. C., & Kirk, E. P. (2014). Using physical activity to teach academic content: A study of the effects on literacy in head start preschoolers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42(3), 181–189. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-013-0596-3
Lee, I. M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: An analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet, 380(9838), 219–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(12)61031-9
Lees, C., & Hopkins, J. (2013). Effect of aerobic exercise on cognition, academic achievement, and psychosocial function in children: A systematic review of randomized control trials. Preventing Chronic Disease. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.130010
Metcalf, B., Henley, W., & Wilkin, T. (2012). Effectiveness of intervention on physical activity of children: Systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials with objectively measured outcomes (EarlyBird 54). BMJ. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5888
Natale, R. A., Camejo, S., & Sanders, L. M. (2016). Communities putting prevention to work: Results of an obesity prevention initiative in child care facilities. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 30(3), 306–319. https://doi.org/10.1080/02568543.2016.1178672
Nelson, D. S., Gerras, J. M., McGlumphy, K. C., Shaver, E. R., Gill, A. K., Kanneganti, K., Ajibewa, T. A., & Hasson, R. E. (2018). Racial discrimination and low household education predict higher body mass index in African American youth. Childhood Obesity, 14(2), 114–121. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2017.0218
Pate, R. R., Brown, W. H., Pfeiffer, K. A., Howie, E. K., Saunders, R. P., Addy, C. L., & Dowda, M. (2016). An intervention to increase physical activity in children: A randomized controlled trial with 4-year-olds in preschool. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 51(1), 12–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.12.003
Pate, R. R., O’Neill, J. R., Brown, W. H., Pfeiffer, K. A., Dowda, M., & Addy, C. L. (2015). Prevalence of compliance with a new physical activity guideline for preschool-age children. Childhood Obesity, 11(4), 415–420. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2014.0143
Pate, R. R., Pfeiffer, K. A., Trost, S. G., Ziegler, P., & Dowda, M. (2004). Physical activity among children attending preschools. Pediatrics, 114(5), 1258–1263. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2003-1088-l
Raustorp, A., Pagels, P., Boldemann, C., Cosco, N., Söderström, M., & Mårtensson, F. (2012). Accelerometer measured level of physical activity indoors and outdoors during preschool time in Sweden and the United States. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 9(6), 801–808. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.9.6.801
Schneider, H., & Lounsbery, M. (2008). Setting the stage for lifetime physical activity in early childhood. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 79(6), 19–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/07303084.2008.10598194
Stodden, D. F., Goodway, J. D., Langendorfer, S. J., Roberton, M. A., Rudisill, M. E., Garcia, C., & Garcia, L. E. (2008). A developmental perspective on the role of motor skill competence in physical activity: An emergent relationship. Quest, 60(2), 290–306. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2008.10483582
Tandon, P. S., Saelens, B. E., & Christakis, D. A. (2015). Active play opportunities at child care. Pediatrics, 135(6), e1425–e1431. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2014-2750
Tucker, P. (2008). The physical activity levels of preschool-aged children: A systematic review. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 547–558. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2008.08.005
US Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans 2nd edition. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
Van Cauwenberghe, E., Labarque, V., Gubbels, J., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., & Cardon, G. (2012). Preschooler’s physical activity levels and associations with lesson context, teacher’s behavior, and environment during preschool physical education. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(2), 221–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2011.09.007
Webster, E. K., Robinson, L. E., & Wadsworth, D. D. (2020). Factors that influence participation in classroom-based physical activity breaks in head start preschoolers. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 17(2), 162–168. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2019-0060
Williams, C. L., Carter, B. J., Kibbe, D. L., & Dennison, D. (2009). Increasing physical activity in preschool: A pilot study to evaluate animal trackers. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 41(1), 47–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2008.03.004
The authors would like to acknowledge the teachers, participants, and parents for their contribution and their time devoted to the study. This study was developed without external funding support. All contributing authors declare no conflicts of interest.
No funding was received for conducting this study.
Conflict of interest
My coauthors and I declare that we do not have any conflicts of interest/competing interests to disclose.
American Psychological Associations ethical principles were followed in the conduct of the study, and we received approval from the University’s institutional review board.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Legal guardians and participants signed informed consent regarding publishing their data.
Consent for Publication
All authors have been personally and actively involved in the preparation of this research for publication. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Carroll, A.V., Spring, K.E. & Wadsworth, D.D. The Effect of a Teacher-Guided and -Led Indoor Preschool Physical Activity Intervention: A Feasibility Study. Early Childhood Educ J 50, 1475–1483 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01274-2