The Relationship between Gender, BMI, and Activity Preference Among Preschool Students

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Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

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Children 3-5 experience significant changes in growth and development. Activity preferences in these critical ages form significant foundations for lifespan health practices and lifestyles. Previous research suggests that changes in childhood body mass index (BMI) related to adult overweight and adiposity more so in females than males (Guo et al., 2000). It has been suggested that overweight/obesity in childhood is associated with poorer gross motor development and endurance performance, and that an active lifestyle is positively correlated with more effective gross motor development in children (Graf et al., 2003). Moreover, children who are overweight are at risk for diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and poor academic performance (Annesi et al., 2007). The current study aimed to investigate relationships across BMI, gender, and social and individual activity preference. Data was collected from 430 children. Participants’ height and weight were measured in order to calculate BMI-for-age scores as it is best suited for preschool populations. The interview portion of this study contained responses to three open-ended questions evaluating participants’ social and individual activity preferences. We hypothesized that: (1) males would be more likely than females to choose physically-active activities rather than sedentary ones, (2) males would be more likely than females to choose outdoor activities rather than indoor ones, (3) male and female participants who preferred active over sedentary activities would have lower BMI scores, and (4) preferences in social environments would show higher rates of active and outdoor activities. The results of this study have implications for a large span of professions, including parents, teachers, and physicians. Research shows that 50 percent of children who are overweight will be unable to overcome their weight, leading them to become obese adults (Dietz, 1998). Hence, the obese adults of tomorrow could start as overweight children today.


This research was supported by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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