Purpose: Promoting physical activity (PA) is a key component of preventing and controlling childhood obesity. Despite well-documented benefits of PA, globally, rates of PA among young children have declined over the past decades, and most children are not accruing sufficient PA daily. Helping children develop the foundation for PA habits early in life is critical for the promotion of health in childhood and prevention of chronic diseases later in life, and will ultimately promote longer and healthier lives for individuals and the general population. The purpose of this review is to provide a synthesis of current evidence on influences on PA and sedentary behaviors of preschool-age children in high-income countries.
Design and Methods: A systematic review of three databases was performed. Studies conducted in high-income countries and published from 2000 onward that addressed influences on PA and sedentary behaviors of preschool-age children were identified and reviewed. Additionally, reference lists of identified articles and relevant published reviews were reviewed. Studies that met the following inclusion criteria were considered: (a) sample included preschoolers (age ≤5 years); (b) PA and/or sedentary behaviors or factors associated with PA and/or sedentary behaviors was assessed; (c) published in English; (d) used either quantitative or qualitative methods; and (e) conducted in a high-income country. Data were extracted from selected studies to identify influences on PA and sedentary behaviors of preschool-age children and organized using the social-ecological model according to multiple levels of influence.
Results: Results from included studies identify multiple factors that influence PA and sedentary behaviors of young children in high-income countries at the various levels of the social-ecological model including intrapersonal, interpersonal, environmental, organizational, and policy.
Practice Implications: Given pediatric nurses’ role as primary care providers, and their frequent and continued contact with parents and their children throughout childhood through well-child visits, immunization, and minor acute illnesses, they are well positioned to promote and support the development of early healthful PA habits of children starting in early childhood.