Preschool Children’s Level of Proficiency in Motor Skills and the Level of their Physical Fitness as Adolescents

Full Title: A longitudinal study to determine and comprehend the relationship between preschool children’s level of proficiency in motor skills and the level of their physical fitness as adolescents

Abstract

The epidemic of pediatric obesity and associated health-related issues in America is correlated with sedentary behavior and physical inactivity. The purpose of this longitudinal research study was twofold: a) to determine if a relationship existed between the level of motor skill proficiency among children at preschool and the level of physical fitness in adolescence and b) to determine if the embedding of learned motor patterns associated with physical activity correlated with physical fitness longitudinally. In 1988, the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD), which assesses locomotor and object control skills, was administered to 140 preschool-aged children, ages 4 to 6 years, who were recruited purposively from two day care centers in a large metropolitan city. In 1999, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) Fitness test, which has correlational validity with the TGMD (p < 0.01) and assesses cardiorespiratory, muscular/strength, flexibility, and body composition, was administered to 140 of the original subjects, aged 14 to16 years. Data analysis was completed using multivariate statistical procedures. Results indicate that the level of proficiency in motor skills in early childhood is predictive and correlates with the level of physical fitness in adolescence (p < 0.001). Further, embedded motor patterns in the primary motor cortex can be physically assessed and correlate with the presence or absence of the targeted learning physical activity objectives. Physical activity in early childhood is positively correlated with physical fitness in adolescence, supporting the importance of pedagogical practices in physical education that promote the physiological and psychological embedding of behaviors which encourage physical activity. Future research is warranted to determine the relationship between physical fitness and cognitive development in children and adolescents.

Key Words: Adolescent, Childhood, Fitness, Abilities

Introduction

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the year 2000, 64% of adults in the United States were overweight, depicting an epidemic of individuals at risk for health-related issues associated with obesity (6). As stated in Healthy People 2010, young citizens are potentially vulnerable for becoming sedentary with progressive age and a goal of the United States is to improve the health, fitness, and quality of lives through participation in daily physical activity (7).

Sedentary behavior is correlated with an increased incidence of cardio respiratory and endocrinologic disorders, including hyperlipedemia and Type II diabetes mellitus in children and adults (5). Immunologic dysfunction has likewise been associated with inactivity, and the reduction in the levels of circulating lymphocytes, particularly CD4 and CD8 cells, essential for the control of the development of malignancy, has been noted in sedentary patients (4). Eosinophilic proliferation, which is critical in the suppression of allergic reactions, has also been correlated with exercise (3). Further, hypokinetic activity is associated with the progression of cognitive and executive function decline in individuals with neurologic disorders such as Alzheimer’s and multi-infarct brain syndrome (2). Minimal human research has been conducted regarding cognition and exercise in normative pediatric cohorts. However, animal research correlates increased neurogenesis and the proliferation of neuronal cells, components associated with increased memory and learning capabilities, with physical activity levels (8).

The embedding of motor patterns in the primary motor cortex occurs in infancy and the repetition of rudimentary movements provides the foundation for the development of progressively more complex motor activities (1). Physiological attributes are associated with primary motor cortex development which naturally occurs throughout the human growth and development cycles (2). The literature is bereft of research which explores the relationship between early childhood physical activities and maintained physical fitness levels. The purpose of this longitudinal research study was twofold: a) to determine if a relationship existed between the level of motor skill proficiency among children at pre-school and the level of physical fitness in adolescence and, b) to determine if the embedding of learned motor patterns associated with physical activity correlated with physical fitness longitudinally.

Methods

In 1988, the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD), which assesses locomotor and object control skills, was administered to 140 healthy preschool children, aged 4 to 6 years, who were purposively recruited from two day care centers in a large metropolitan city. In 1999, the AAHPERD fitness test, which has correlational validity with the TGMD (p < 0.01) and assesses cardiorespiratory, muscular/strength, flexibility, and body composition, was administered to 140 of the original subjects, aged 14 to 16 years. Data analysis was completed using multivariate statistical procedures.

Results

Results indicate that the level of proficiency in motor skills in early childhood is predictive and correlates with the level of physical fitness in adolescence (p < 0.001) (Tables 1-5). Specific physical attributes associated with locomotor and manipulative skills measured at baseline and in adolescence by the TGMD and AAHPERD indicate primary motor cortex development, evident in limb and forearm movement, muscle composition, and coordination required to longitudinally perform physical activities, such as running, skipping, galloping, etc. (Table 6). Development and progression of skill acquisition is individualized, requiring assessment and instruction relative to the child. Implications for curriculum development for the training of physical education professionals is suggested in light of the physiological and neurological aspects of skill development.

Table 1
Means of TGMD and AAHPERD Scores

Mean Males Females
TGMD
Locomotor Skill
   Raw 16.11 16.03 16.20
   Standardized 11.91 11.65 12.20
Manipulative Skill
   Raw 9.19 11.09 6.98
   Standardized 12.77 14.08 11.26
Total
   Raw 25.29 27.12 23.18
   Standardized 24.68 25.73 23.46
Age 4.8 4.84 4.77
AAHPERD
Time to Run 80.93 66.70 97.35
No. Sit-ups 46.40 51.53 40.48
Flexibility Reach 33.47 32.20 34.94
Triceps/Body Comp. 13.06 9.20 17.51

Table 2
Linear Regression: Time To Run 1.5 Miles

Beta S.E. R Sq. P Value
(p < x)
Total TGMD Score as Predictor
Intercept 136.23 5.45 0.44 0.001
Total TGMD -2.24 0.22
Total TGMD Score: Body Composition
Intercept 71.71 6.3 0.74 0.001
Total TGMD -0.87 0.18
Body Composition 2.35 0.19
LSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 108.13 5.49 0.16 0.001
LSS Score -2.28 0.44
LSS: Body Composition
Intercept 134.76 4.48 0.53 0.001
LSS Score -0.76 0.27
Body Composition 2.72 0.17
MSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 134.76 4.48 0.53 0.001
MSS Score -4.21 0.34
MSS Score: Body Composition
Intercept 74.66 6.4 0.75 0.001
MSS Score -1.74 0.34
Body Composition 2.18 0.2

Table 3
Linear Regression Number Sit-ups

Beta S.E. R Sq. P Value
(p < x)
Total TGMD Score as Predictor
Intercept 7.88 2.61 0.63 0.001
Total TGMD 1.56 0.10
Total TGMD Score: Body Composition
Intercept 26.11 401 0.70 0.001
Total TGMD 1.17 0.12
Body Composition -0.66 0.12
LSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 23.90 2.88 0.33 0.001
LSS Score 1.89 0.23
LSS: Body Composition
Intercept 45.87 3.20 0.60 0.001
LSS Score 1.27 0.19
Body Composition -1.11 0.12
MSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 12.90 2.42 0.60 0.001
MSS Score 2.62 0.18
MSS Score: Body Composition
Intercept 29.32 4.43 0.65 0.001
MSS Score 1.95 0.23
Body Composition -0.60 0.14

Table 4
Linear Regression Flexibility / Reach

Beta S.E. R Sq. P Value
(p < x)
Total TGMD Score as Predictor
Intercept 14.73 2.03 0.39 0.001
Total TGMD 0.76 0.08
Total TGMD Score: Body Composition
Intercept 9.08 3.41 0.41 0.001
Total TGMD 0.88 0.10
Body Composition 0.21 0.10
LSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 18.63 1.70 0.38 0.001
LSS Score 1.25 0.14
LSS: Body Composition
Intercept 20.21 2.43 0.38 0.001
LSS Score 1.20 0.15
Body Composition -0.08 0.09
MSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 21.53 2.09 0.20 0.001
MSS Score 0.93 0.16
MSS Score: Body Composition
Intercept 19.18 4.08 0.21 0.001
MSS Score 1.03 0.21
Body Composition 0.09 0.13

Table 5
Linear Regression: Triceps Once / Body Composition

Beta S.E. R Sq. P Value
(p < x)
Total TGMD Score as Predictor
Intercept 27.47 1.71 0.35 0.001
Total TGMD -0.58 0.07
LSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 19.71 1.64 0.012 0.001
LSS Score -0.56 0.13
MSS Score as Predictor
Intercept 27.56 1.40 0.45 0.001
MSS Score -1.14 0.11

Table 6
Physical Assessment and Corresponding Motor Cortex Development

Skill Primary Motor Cortex Motor Areas (X1 strong, X2 moderate, X3 weak)
Hips Knees Ankles Toes Shoulder Upper Arm Elbow Forearm Wrist Digits
Running X1 X1 X1 X1 X2 X2 X2 X2 X3 X3
Walking X1 X1 X1 X1 X2 X2 X2 X2 X3 X3
Hopping X1 X1 X1 X1 X2 X2 X2 X3 X3 X2
Jumping X1 X1 X1 X1 X3 X3 X2 X2 X2 X2
Leaping X1 X1 X1 X1 X1 X2 X2 X2 X3 X3
Sliding X1 X1 X1 X1 X1 X2 X2 X2 X3 X3
Stationary
Bouncing
X3 X3 X3 X3 X2 X1 X1 X1 X1 X1
Overhead
Throwing
X1 X2 X3 X3 X1 X1 X1 X1 X1 X2
Catching X3 X3 X3 X3 X2 X2 X1 X1 X1 X1

Discussions and Conclusions

Physical activity in early childhood is positively correlated with physical fitness in adolescence, supporting the importance of pedagogical practices in physical education that promote the physiological and psychological embedding of behaviors which encourage physical activity. Further, physical assessment of attributes which correlate with primary motor cortex growth and development supports the presence or absence of embedded motor skills, supporting the need for tailoring specific lesson plans for motor cortex growth and development for individual learners. The development of assessment protocols and recommendations and educator training modules is warranted in light of the results of this research study.

Applications in Sports

Comprehension of the cerebral function in motor skills development is essential for the physical educator. In the acquisition of motor skills which facilitate learning of particular sports, specific and associated movements and patterns correlate with motor cortex growth and development. Therefore, comprehension of the physiology and stage of motor skill is essential for coaches and physical educators to enhance individual and team performance.

References

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Corresponding Author

Michelle Reillo, RN, PhD: gasbear@aol.com