Original Research

Physical activity in early childhood education and care settings in a low-income, rural South African community: an observational study

AUTHORS

name here
Simone Annabella Tomaz1
PhD, Post Doctoral Research Fellow

name here
Rachel A Jones2
PhD, Senior Lecturer

name here
Trina Hinkley3
PhD, Senior Research Fellow

name here
Rhian Twine4
PhD, Head of Public Engagement

Kathleen Kahn5 PhD, MB BCh, Professor

Shane A Norris6 PhD, Professor

name here
Catherine Elizabeth Draper7
PhD, Senior Researcher *

AFFILIATIONS

1 Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

2 Early Start, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

3 Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Science, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

4 MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

5 MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden; and INDEPTH Network, Accra, Ghana

6 MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

7 Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

ACCEPTED: 23 July 2019


early abstract:

Introduction: Research has not been conducted on physical activity (PA) in early child education and care (ECEC) settings in low-income, rural communities in South Africa. This study aimed to 1) describe the PA environment of these settings and 2) identify child and contextual factors associated with PA in these settings. By understanding PA in this environment, it would be possible to identify context-specific opportunities, including with teachers, to overcome potential challenges and maximize PA in a low- and middle-income country setting.

Methods: The study was conducted in rural Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga in 2014. Preschool-aged children (n=55) were recruited from five ECEC settings, including three preschools and two primary schools, where preschool-aged children are in their reception year, Grade R. Preschool environment characteristics were assessed using an observational tool adapted from existing tools. Children’s PA was assessed using the Observational System for Recording Physical Activity in Children – Preschool Version. Differences between Preschool and Grade R settings were assessed using χ(chi)2 analyses, and multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors associated with PA in the ECEC settings.

Results: The PA environment differed between Preschool and Grade R ECEC settings in terms of space (Preschool<Grade R, p<0.001) and fixed equipment (Preschool>Grade R, p<0.001). On average, children spent 28.7% of their day in the ECEC settings engaged in PA, of which 22.3% was moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA (MVPA). Children spent thegreatest proportion of the day in sedentary activities (69.9%) and this differed significantly between Preschool (63.2%) and Grade R children (81.3%, p<0.001). Preschool children were significantly more active than Grade R children, and spent greater proportions of time in light-intensity PA (8.6% vs. 2.7%, p<0.001) and MVPA (25.4% vs. 15.3%, p<0.001). Irrespective of ECEC setting, children were significantly more likely to participate in MVPA if they were outdoors (p=0.001), and significantly less likely to do MVPA if they were overweight/obese (p=0.006).

Conclusions: These findings provide insight into child-level and contextual factors associated with preschool-aged children’s PA within ECEC settings in a low-income, rural community in South Africa. Particularly, the physical and social features of ECEC settings are important in the promotion of PA. Findings from this study suggest that it is necessary to upskill and encourage teachers in ECEC settings to maximise opportunities for PA in rural low-income communities in South Africa.