Interview conducted by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Please could you give a brief introduction to motor coordination?
The importance of an adequate motor coordination level in childhood has recently reemerged. In literature on motor skill development, the focus is mostly on the proficiency/competence level in movement skills. Motor competence/coordination can be defined as a person’s ability to execute different motor acts, including coordination of both fine and gross motor skills (Henderson & Sugden, 1992).
The development of motor competence during infancy and childhood is dependent upon and influenced according to the pattern that is established by two factors namely, biological factors which include genetics, gender and maturation, and environmental factors which include experience, opportunity, encouragement, demographics and social factors (Gallahue, 1982; Thomas, 2000; Thomas, 2001) and their interactions (Newell, 1986).
Why is childhood a critical time for the development of motor coordination skills?
This is a period of development when children are thought to be able to acquire skills through structured and purposeful learning environments and is a crucial period for developing physically competent children. Preschool and the early elementary years are crucial to a child’s development and mastery of fundamental movement skills.
The acquisition of fundamental movement skills is developmentally sequenced (Branta et al., 1984) and is dependent upon several internal and external factors (biological, psychological, social, motivational, cognitive, etc.), and the process of acquisition occurs while a range of active play experiences and structured programs takes place (Hardy et al., 2010). These skills enable children to interact with and explore their environment (Gallahue & Ozmun, 2006).
Although a rudimentary form of movement pattern may naturally develop, a mature form of motor proficiency is more likely to be achieved with appropriate practice, encouragement, feedback and instruction (Gallahue & Ozmun, 2006). Likewise, these skills need to be learned, practiced and reinforced through developmentally appropriate movement programmes (Logan et al., 2011).
What is a sedentary lifestyle and how many children are thought to have one?
Sedentary behavior is defined as any activity that does not increase energy expenditure substantially above the resting level (less than 1.5 METs), such as sleeping, sitting, lying down, or watching television or other forms of screen-based entertainment (Pate, O'Neill, & Lobelo, 2008).
The negative effects of sedentary lifestyles on children’s health and health-related behaviors and outcomes are a source of concern. Some studies have shown that children spend significant proportions of their waking time being sedentary between 50% and 80% (Colley et al., 2011; Martinez-Gomez et al., 2011; Matthews et al., 2008) and as a result may be at risk of detrimental health outcomes (Hinkleyet al., 2010).
What is the relationship between motor coordination and a sedentary lifestyle in children?
Literature has paid little attention to the relationship between SB and MC (two studies reported no association) (Cliff, Okely, Smith, & McKeen, 2009; Graf et al., 2004), while the other two reported a negative association (Williams et al., 2008; Wrotniak et al., 2006).
Our study suggests that high time spent in SB was a predictor of low MC, regardless of PA levels and other confounders.
What do you think are the reasons for this relationship?
There is a general acceptance that the performances for a range of fundamental motor skills reflect a degree of learning to which the individual is exposed. Therefore, if children spend most of their time in sedentary behaviors this will enable them to learn, develop and refine their motor coordination, which in turn could impair children’s physical activity or vice-versa. This could lead to a spiral of negative consequences in physical, social and emotional domains.
What are the consequences of a child having poor motor coordination?
Research conducted in the past decade has provided evidence that children with poor motor coordination are demonstrated to be heavier (Cairney et al., 2010), less participant in physical activity (Rivilis et al., 2011), and less fit (Cairneyet al., 2010; Cairney et al., 2007; Cairneyet al., 2006) than their normal-developed peers.
In addition, they have:
- poor academic achievement (Losse et al., 1991)
- low self-esteem (Hay & Missiuna, 1998)
- poor social competence (Bouffard et al., 1996)
- a risk of long-term psychological morbidity and educational failure (Lingam et al., 2009).
Furthermore, they reported:
- diminished perceptions of athletic competence
- low levels of peer acceptance (Cairney et al., 2005; Cantell, Smyth, & Ahonen, 1994)
- greater anxiety than typically developed peers when faced with movement challenges (Rose, Larkin, & Berger, 1994; Skinner & Piek, 2001)
- avoidance of physical activity (Bouffard et al., 1996)
What other consequences are there for children who have a sedentary lifestyle?
The negative effects of sedentary lifestyles on children’s health and health-related behaviors and outcomes are a source of concern. Some studies have shown that children spend significant proportions of their waking time being sedentary between 50% and 80% (Colley et al., 2011; Martinez-Gomez et al., 2011; Matthews et al., 2008) and as a result may be at risk of detrimental health outcomes (Hinkley et al., 2010).
Mounting evidence has suggested recently that time spent in sedentary behavior is associated with adverse health outcomes, an association that may be independent of the protective contributions of physical activity, as it remained significant after adjustments (van Uffelen et al., 2010).
In a recent review of sedentary behavior and health indicators in school-aged children and youth, the authors concluded that spending more than two hours per day being sedentary was associated with unfavorable body composition, decreased fitness, lowered scores for self-esteem and pro-social behavior, and decreased academic achievement (Tremblay et al., 2011).
Are there plans in place to encourage more children to have a more active lifestyle?
The importance of promoting active lifestyles from a young age is widely recognized, and the health benefits of regular physical activity are extensively acknowledged (Strong et al., 2005; WHO, 2010). The incorporation of physical activity into daily life and the achievement of recommended health-related levels of physical activity are major public health challenges.
As far as we know, almost all western countries have national or regional interventions programmes. In Portugal, the Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth is the governmental agency that is responsible for the execution of the national policy of physical activity and sports. Therefore, the evaluation and the promotion of physical activity and sports can be found in the follow link: http://www.idesporto.pt/Default.aspx
How do you think the future of motor coordination skills in children will develop?
One of the cornerstones of a physically active lifestyle is motor skill competence (Ennis, 2011). Motor coordination investigations are in early birth. Future research should include well designed cross-sectional studies that further describe motor coordination levels and correlates. They also should explore the associations with motor coordination and other variables (genetic and/or environmental) contributing to build and strengthen the existing knowledge on this topic.
Relations between motor coordination, adiposity, physical activity, sedentary behavior, physical fitness and academic achievement should be addressed with longitudinal and intervention studies to further explore the nature and the direction of associations.
Do you have plans for any further research into this field?
Yes, the UP & DOWN Study, which is a 3-yr longitudinal study in children and adolescents (with the first year of assessments completed), is to observe the impact over time of physical activity/sedentary behavior on health indicators (physical fitness, motor coordination, metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk factors, new inflammation-immunity biomarkers, mental health and school performance); as well as to identify the psycho-environmental and genetic determinants of an active lifestyle and its impact on physical fitness, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory biomarkers and mental health.
The UP & DOWN Study is divided into three overall SUB-STUDIES, each of them with specific aims:
- SUB-STUDY 1: longitudinal study of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, motor coordination and health-related physical fitness in children and adolescents: determinants and their effects on health
- SUB-STUDY 2: longitudinal study of gene-lifestyle interaction and cardiovascular health children and adolescents
- SUB-STUDY 3: effects of physical activity and physical fitness on metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk related novel biomarkers in children and adolescents
Where can readers find more information?
About Dr. Luis Lopes
Dr Luis Lopes recently completed his PhD in Child Studies at the University of Minho, Portugal. He specialized in Physical activity and motor coordination.
He has published several papers including:
- Lopes, L.; Santos, R.; Pereira, B.; Lopes, V. P. (2012) Associations between Gross Motor Coordination and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children. Human Movement Science (in press).
- Lopes, L.; Santos, R.; Pereira, B.; Lopes, V. P. (2012) Associations between sedentary behavior and motor coordination in children. American Journal of Human Biology. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22310 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajhb.22310/abstract
- Lopes, L.; Santos, R.; Pereira, B.; Lopes, V. P. (2011) Maternal Perceptions of Children’s Weight Status. Child; Care, Health and Development (doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2012.01380.x). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2012.01380.x/abstract
- Lopes, L.; Lopes, V. P.; Santos, R.; Pereira, B. (2011) "Associações entre actividade física, habilidades motoras e coordenação motora em crianças portuguesas (Association between physical activity and motor skills and coordination in Portuguese children).", Revista Brasileira de Cineantropometria e Desempenho Humano (Brazilian Journal of Kinanthropometry and Human Performance) 13, 1: 15 - 21. DOI: 10.5007/1980-0037.2011v13n1p15 http://www.rbcdh.ufsc.br/DownloadArtigo.do?artigo=614
- Santos R.; Moreira, C.; Ruiz, J.R.; Vale, S.; Soares-Miranda, L.; Moreira, P.; Lopes, L.; Marques, A.I.; Oliveira-Tavares, A.; Santos, P.C.; Abreu, S.; Coelho-Silva, M.J. & Mota J. (2011) Reference curves for BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio for Azorean adolescents (Portugal). Public Health Nutrition Sep 7:1-7. doi:10.1017/S1368980011002230
- Lopes, L.; Lopes, V.P.; Pereira, B. (2009) Physical Activity Levels in Normal Weight and Overweight Portuguese Children: an Intervention Study during an Elementary School Recess. International Electronic Journal of Health Education, 2009; 12:175-184. http://www.aahperd.org/aahe/publications/iejhe/upload/09_lopes.pdf
- Lopes, L., Lopes, V. P., Pereira, B. (2007) Actividade Física no Recreio Escolar. Estudo de intervenção em crianças dos 6 aos 12 anos. Rev. bras. Educ. Fís. Esp., São Paulo, v.20, n.4, p.271-80, out./dez. 2006. http://www.revistasusp.sibi.usp.br/pdf/rbefe/v20n4/v20n4a5.pdf