Effects of a before school physical activity program on physical activity, musculoskeletal fitness, and cognitive function
Knight, Noelle A.
Regular physical activity is important for everybody, but may be especially beneficial for children. Despite this, most children in the United States do not meet physical activity recommendations. Schools are a prime location for targeting the physical activity levels of children given their ability to reach many children in one accessible and safe location. Unfortunately, schools provide limited opportunities for children to be active during the school day as pressures increase to focus more on academic work. Cutting physical activity time during the school day may have a negative impact on children's physical and mental health. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a simple, low-cost physical activity program before school on third-grade children's physical activity levels, musculoskeletal fitness, and cognitive function. Methods: Physical activity was measured daily at the 10-week program using pedometers. Physical activity during the school day was measured by accelerometers for one week while the program was in session and for one week after the program ended. Musculoskeletal fitness was measured using four tests during early and late intervention. Cognitive function was assessed at the beginning of the program on a day children did not attend the before-school activity program, and near the end of the program on a day children spent at least 10 minutes engaged in physical activity at the program. Results: Twenty-eight children attended the program for 30 or more days, for an average of 17.4 (± 1.8) minutes per day. According to pedometer data, over the course of the program children took an average of 987 (± 344) steps and were active at a rate of 58.6 (± 20.8) steps per minute each day at the before school program. Children did not become less active as the program went on, but rather took significantly more steps in mid-intervention and late intervention than in early intervention. Accelerometer data collected during four days of the program showed that participants spent 22.1 (± 8.5) percent of their time at the program in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. On days that participants attended the program, they spent slightly more time in light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity and took more steps per minute on average during the school day than they did on days after the program was over. Participants also spent less time in sedentary behavior on school days when they attended the before school program versus days without the program, suggesting that students did not compensate on days they were active at the program by being less active during the school day. No differences were seen from early to late intervention in any of the musculoskeletal fitness tests. Analysis of cognitive function measures showed that participants made fewer errors on each of the three CogState assessment tests on days when they engaged in 10 minutes of physical activity at the program compared to days when they did not attend the program before taking the assessments. When participants engaged in physical activity for 10 minutes prior to CogState assessments, they made an average of 7.54 fewer errors during the Groton Maze Learning Task (ES = -0.26), 2.25 fewer errors during the One Back Task (ES = -0.27), and 33.35 fewer errors during the Continuous Paired Associate Learning Task (ES = -0.51) than on days when they did not attend the program before taking assessments. When participants took the assessments after 10 minutes of activity, reaction time did not change significantly (mean of the log10 transformed reaction time, 2.96 ± 0.18 vs. 2.95 ± 0.14, ES = -0.04). Conclusions: This study suggests that a low-cost, before school physical activity program can positively impact certain domains of cognitive function, including attention, working memory, spatial memory, and executive function. Also, providing children with an opportunity to be active before the school day may help them accumulate more physical activity and spend less time in sedentary behavior during the school day, which may lead to an increase in overall physical activity and associated physical and mental health benefits.
Knight, Noelle A.. (January 2015). Effects of a before school physical activity program on physical activity, musculoskeletal fitness, and cognitive function (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4876.)
Knight, Noelle A.. Effects of a before school physical activity program on physical activity, musculoskeletal fitness, and cognitive function. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 2015. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4876. February 19, 2019.
Knight, Noelle A., “Effects of a before school physical activity program on physical activity, musculoskeletal fitness, and cognitive function” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 2015).
Knight, Noelle A.. Effects of a before school physical activity program on physical activity, musculoskeletal fitness, and cognitive function [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 2015.
East Carolina University