SPACE study yields insights into physical activity of young children

With the goal of creating childcare environments that are supportive and encouraging of physical activity behaviours, Trish Tucker, associate professor in Western’s School of Occupational Therapy, and her team have been researching ways to increase the activity behaviours of young children in this setting.

Physical activity offers numerous benefits for young children, including improved motor and cognitive development, psychosocial, cardiometabolic and skeletal health. To ensure young children are acquiring these many benefits, the SPACE study (Supporting Physical Activity in the Childcare Environment) was launched in several childcare centres and offered staff training, portable play equipment, and a modified outdoor playtime schedule (shorter, more frequent bouts outside) with the goal of improving preschoolers’ physical activity levels. The intervention was found to be successful. There was a significant increase in preschoolers’ physical activity as a consequence of the SPACE intervention.

The study took place in childcare centres, and for good reason. Approximately 50 per cent of preschoolers are cared for outside the home, and as a previous study conducted by Tucker and her team discovered, kids in centre-based childcare had the lowest physical activity levels, compared to those in home-based childcare or full-day kindergarten.

Getting Creative

Knowledge translation, an integral part of the research process, entails sharing findings with those in a position to use the information to make changes to programming and policies in support of improving the health of Canadians. To share the findings of their study with the public, Tucker and her team got creative. Determined to ensure the results of the SPACE study were disseminated to the childcare field, Tucker and her colleagues created a video to increase the uptake of the SPACE study findings so that stakeholders could see the value of the SPACE intervention, and the importance of targeting physical activity during the early years. This video (above) was shared with early childhood educators and childcare stakeholders at the study’s conclusion.

Getting Competitive

Tucker and her colleagues have recently submitted the video to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) Talks Video Competition. The objective of the competition is to profile research and ideas within IHDCYH’s mandate to improve knowledge translation and help demonstrate the impact that evidence can and does have on maternal, reproductive, child and youth health in Canada. This CIHR initiative includes sharing videos for the month of November to see how widely study results can be distributed. Individuals are invited to give the video a “thumbs up”, and part of the adjudication process is based on the number of likes a video receives.