Nathan Tokarek

MS, PhD Candidate, Research Assistant

Sex Differences in Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors between Traditional and Nature-Based Pre-Kindergarten Program settings

Nathan R. Tokarek1, Chi C. Cho1, & Ann M. Swartz, FACSM1
1University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI.
While the school a child attends acts as a strong predictor of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA), in traditional school settings boys tend to engage in more physical activity (PA) and less sedentary behavior (SB) than girls. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare sex differences in Pre-Kindergarten children’s PA and SB between a nature-based or traditional classroom setting. Methods: 18 boys and 7 girls from one Pre-Kindergarten program enrolled. Data was collected using waist-worn accelerometers for 4 days (2h45min/day) across one week in the winter. Participants spent two days in a traditional classroom setting, and two days in a nature-based setting. Accelerometer data was analyzed using Butte (2014) cutpoints. Mann-Whitney U Tests were used to detect significant differences (p<0.05) in PA and SB between boys and girls across school settings. Results: Compared to a traditional setting, boys and girls averaged significantly more MVPA in a nature-based setting (Boys: 6.3±6.3 minutes, p<.001; Girls: 5.8±5.0 minutes, p<.001). Change in MVPA between educational settings was not significantly different between boys and girls (p=.790). In a nature-based setting, boys spent significantly more time in moderate-intensity PA (MPA) than girls (Diff: 2.9±1.2% of Wear Time [WT]; p=.047), averaging 20- and 17-minutes of MPA per class period, respectively. There were no significant differences in the PA or SB levels of boys and girls in the traditional classroom setting. Conclusion: During early education, children form the PA habits they will follow through K-12 schooling into adulthood. Therefore, any intervention promoting higher levels of PA at this age should be explored. Boys and girls experienced similar increases in PA when attending school in a nature-based compared to a traditional setting, therefore this pilot study suggests that educating children in a nature-based setting may promote greater levels of PA in both boys and girls.

The project described was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Award Number TL1TR001437. The content is solely the responsibility of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


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