May 2020

Does Physical Activity Relate to Motor Development?

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Do certain kinds of physical activity (PA) help children develop motor skills better than others? To find out, researchers from East Carolina University used data from 342 children who had taken part in the 2012 National Youth Fitness Survey to look at specific kinds of PA and motor skill development in preschool-aged children.

Using a questionnaire, parents reported on their children’s activity; motor skill development was determined by the Test of Gross Motor Development-2nd Edition (TGMD-2). Multiple regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between PA type and overall Gross Motor Quotient (GMQ).

Commonly reported activities were running (43%), playing outdoor games (35%), and riding a bike (34%). Based on the standard scores, participants’ motor skill development for locomotor, object control, and overall GMQ were considered average.

Four specific activities stood out: Riding a bike, scooter riding, swimming, and jumping on a trampoline were positively associated with GMQ, significantly so. With the exception of riding a bike, the physical activities positively related to GMQ had a reported range of participation between 7–12%. Unfortunately, the activities that the children participated in the most were not the same as the activities that were positively related to motor skill development.

Source: Wood AP, Imai S, McMillan AG, Swift D, DuBose KD. Physical activity types and motor skills in 3–5-year old children: National Youth Fitness Survey. J Sci Med Sport. 2020;23(4):390-395.

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