Reducing High BMI in African American Preschoolers Effects of a Behavior-based Physical Activity Intervention on Caloric Expenditure

James J. Annesi, Kennesaw State University
Alice E. Smith, YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta
Gisèle A. Tennant, YMCA Canada


Objectives: Overweight and obesity in young children are increasing concerns for medical professionals. Lack of sufficient physical activity may be the primary cause; therefore, the development and testing of a theory-based intervention for preschoolers is a priority. Methods: A 30-minutes/day preschool-based intervention (Start For Life), with a foundation in social cognitive theory that emphasizes the use of self-regulation skills and feelings of mastery (self-efficacy), was administered for 9 months to 4- and 5-year-old African American children. Results: Findings indicated a significant increase in accelerometer-measured moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous physical activity during the 7-hour school day. Reductions in body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) were significant, with greater effects found in participants with an initially higher BMI. Further analyses indicated that the kilocalories expended through physical activity explained approximately 87% of the weight lost. Participants’ sex did not affect the identified changes in BMI. Conclusions: A brief theory-based physical activity intervention (Start For Life) was associated with increased moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous physical activity and reduced overweight/obesity in 4- to 5-year-old preschoolers. Because of its practical format, opportunities for widespread dissemination may be possible.