Physical education in early childhood (PEECh)

With increasing numbers of children being enrolled in early childhood education (ECE) centres and participating in these settings for longer periods of time, this environment is becoming extremely important with regards to healthy practices regarding physical activity (PA), nutrition and sleep. However, due to minimal ECE teacher training on PA (Kane, 2005), teachers’ perceptions of risk (“cotton wool” children) and rigid playground regulations (Ministry of Education, 2008), the evidence suggests that pre-schoolers’ PA opportunities are being limited. In addition we currently know very little about healthy practices with regards to healthy eating and sleep in ECE centres. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of a 3-month physical literacy programme on children’s PA levels and teacher practices within ECE centres. The project is in collaboration with Jumping Beans International and Best Start Educare.

Collaborators: Prof Claire McLachlan (University of Waikato), Dr Cathryn Conlon, Dr Tara McLaughlin and Owen Mugridge (Massey University)

Beverage intake in young New Zealand children playing competitive sport

The use of sport drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages is an important topic for both sports performance and the health of New Zealand children. Children have different responses to exercise than adults and may require and benefit from differing nutrition and hydration plans. Recent research shows New Zealand children identified 31 different beverages associated with sport, but there is currently a lack of information about actual intake of drinks before, during and after sport. This study is aiming to use a survey to investigate the types and quantities of beverages that 11-14 year olds are drinking before, during, and after sport.

Student: Daniel Gordon (BSc Honours candidate)

Collaborators: Dr Kay Rutherfurd-Markwick, Dr Carol Wham, Dr Andrew Foskett, Dr Cheryl Gammon (Massey University)

The determinants of gait transitions in normal weight and obese children

Due to the rising prevalence of childhood obesity, effort must be made to encourage children to participate in physical activity more regularly. However, obese children are less likely to participate in regular physical activity, which may be influenced by difficulties running or transitioning between walking and running. Identifying factors contributing to difficulties during such fundamental skills may be used to inform targeted training programmes, thus enabling obese children to participate in more activities of moderate-to-vigorous intensity. Unfortunately, no research has investigated the biomechanics of running or walk-to-run transitions in obese children along with the associated metabolic costs and perceived effort of these activities. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate biomechanical (joint movements and muscle activity), physiological (energy expenditure) and perceptual differences during the walk-to-run transition between obese, overweight and non-obese children.

Student: Stacey Kung (PhD candidate)

Collaborators: Dr Sarah Shultz, Prof Stephen Legg, Dr Phil Fink (Massey University)