Association between Fundamental Motor Skills and Physical Activity in Early Years: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Background: Physical activity (PA) in the early years is associated with a range of positive health outcomes. Fundamental motor skill (FMS) competence is associated with PA and is theorised to be driven by PA in the early years and vice-versa in mid to late childhood. However, to date, no studies have meta-analysed the association between PA and FMS in the early years.
Methods: Six electronic databases were searched up to April 2019. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies were included if they targeted children (age 3 to 6 years) as the population of the study and assessed the association between objectively measured PA and FMS. Fundamental motor skills (Total FMS), total physical activity (TPA) and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) data were meta-analysed using a random effects model.
Results: We identified 24 815 titles and abstracts. In total, 19 studies met the inclusion criteria; 14 cross-sectional, four longitudinal, and one study with cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis. There was a significant but small positive association between FMS and MVPA (r=0.20; 95% CI: 0.13-0.26) and TPA (r=0.20; 0.12-0.28). Findings from longitudinal studies revealed that PA drives FMS in early childhood. Mediation was explored in one study which found that perceived motor competence did not mediate the association between FMS and PA.
Conclusion: This study is the first to show a positive association between the early year’s FMS and MVPA and TPA using a meta-analysis, suggesting that the association begins at an early age. Limited evidence from longitudinal studies support the theory that PA drives FMS in the early years. More evidence is needed from large studies to track PA and FMS until mid to late childhood and to explore the mediators of this association.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Jan 2020


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