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Title: Effect of level of autonomy on the amount of physical activity in young children

item JUVANCIC-HELTZEL, JUDITH - University Of Akron
item SANDERS, GABRIEL - Kent State University
item WILLIAMSON, MEGAN - Kent State University
item Roemmich, James
item FEDA, DENISE - University Of Buffalo
item BARKELY, JACOB - Kent State University

Submitted to: American College of Sports Medicine
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2012
Publication Date: 5/1/2012
Citation: Juvancic-Heltzel, J.A., Sanders, G.J., Williamson, M.L., Roemmich, J.N., Feda, D.M., Barkely, J.E. 2012. Effect of level of autonomy on the amount of physical activity in young children [abstract]. American College of Sports Medicine. 44:510(Suppl. 2 5S).

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: BACKGROUND: Emerging research has indicated that providing choice of exercise options increases the amount of physical activity children perform. However, these studies have not yet assessed this effect using physical activities children typically have access to in a naturalistic setting. PURPOSE: To assess physically active and sedentary behaviors of children in a naturalistic setting under two conditions: one that provided high autonomy through choice (HC) of 8 physical activity options, and one that provided minimal autonomy by providing choice of 2 active options (LC). METHODS: Ten boys (age 6.3 ± 1.6 y) and seven girls (age 5.7 ± 1.3 y) completed HC and LC conditions in a gymnasium. The order of the conditions was randomized. During HC, participants had access to 3 obstacle courses, jump-rope, various balls and targets and a table of sedentary activities (games, toys, coloring sheets and crayons) for 30 min. During LC, participants had access to 2 physical activity equipment options (one obstacle course, one ball with targets) and the same sedentary activities. During each condition participants were free to participate in the physical and/or sedentary activities as they chose for the entire session. Physical activity was monitored via accelerometery and the amount of time allocated to sedentary activity was monitored via observation and stopwatch. Participants reported their liking of each condition via a visual analog scale. RESULTS: Mixed-model analysis of variance demonstrated a significant (p < 0.04) sex (boys, girls) by condition (HC, LC) interaction for accelerometer counts. Boys increased (p = 0.002) accelerometer counts from the LC (8.5e+4 ± 2.6e+4 counts) to HC (11.2e+4 ± 1.5e+4 counts) condition. Girls did not alter (p = 0.6) accelerometer counts across conditions (8.3e+4 ± 5.7e+4 counts LC, 7.7e+4 ± 5.0e+4 counts HC). There were no significant (p = 0.3) main or interaction effects for differences in time allocated to sedentary activities or liking. CONCLUSION: Increasing the variety of physical activity equipment options in a naturalistic setting increased physical activity participation in young boys, but not young girls.