Overweight and obesity and motor proficiency of 3- and 4-year old children

  • Dorita Du Toit
  • Anita E Pienaar
Keywords: Obesity, Motor competency, Gross motor skills, Pre-school children


Childhood obesity has increased over the last two decades, with increasing concern regarding health and other developmental risks. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of overweight and obesity and the differences in gross motor skills between overweight and obese 3- and 4-year old children and their non-obese counterparts in Potchefstroom. Three fundamental motor tasks were qualitatively (the quality of the execution of the skill) and quantitatively (the measurable score given to the performance of the skill, e.g. distance in mm) assessed in 19 overweight and obese participants and 111 non-obese participants in age-matched groups. The prevalence of obesity (15.83%) found in this sample, corresponds with worldwide and national trends in this age group, but is higher than the prevalence found in South Africa. Differences of statistical significance were established with t-tests as well as non-parametric analysis. The results showed no statistical differences in the 3-year old group, while statistical differences were found in favour of the non-obese participants in the 4-year old group with regard to quantitative scores for balancing on one leg and the quantitative and qualitative scores of catching, suggesting that overweight and obese children perform poor in comparison with non-obese children in tasks that require good balancing ability and good perceptual and spatial abilities. The results suggest that the influence of overweight and obesity on gross motor skill development is not significant at 3 years of age, but increases in such measurements that it can impede development at 4 years of age.

Keywords: Obesity, Motor competency, Gross motor skills, Pre-school children

South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation Vol.25(2) 2003: 37-48

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0379-9069