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Behavioral effects of a locomotor-based physical activity intervention in preschoolers

Background: Poor adaptive learning behaviors (ie, distractibility, inattention, and disruption) are associated with behavior problems and underachievement in school, as well as indicating potential attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Strategies are needed to limit these behaviors. Physical activity (PA) has been suggested to improve behavior in school-aged children, but little is known about this relationship in preschoolers. This study examined the effects of a PA intervention on classroom behaviors in preschool-aged children. Methods: Eight preschool classrooms (n = 71 children; age = 3.8 [plus or minus] 0.7 y) with children from low socioeconomic environments were randomized to a locomotor-based PA (LB-PA) or unstructured free playtime (UF-PA) group. Both interventions were implemented by classroom teachers and delivered for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week for 6 months. Classroom behavior was measured in both groups at 3 time points, whereas PA was assessed at 2 time points over a 6-month period and analyzed with hierarchical linear modeling. Results: Linear growth models showed significant decreases in hyperactivity (LB-PA: -2.58 points, P = .001; UF-PA: 2.33 points, P = .03), aggression (LB-PA: -2.87 points, P = .01; UF-PA: 0.97 points, P = .38) and inattention (LB-PA: 1.59 points, P .001; UF-PA: 3.91 points, P .001). Conclusions: This research provides promising evidence for the efficacy of LB-PA as a strategy to improve classroom behavior in preschoolers. (author abstract)
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United States
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