Parental understanding of preschool children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour
: Implications for guidelines and policy

  • Georgina Bentley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher physical activity and lower time in sedentary behaviour in the preschool years are associated with improved health outcomes. Evidence of whether UK preschool children are achieving the national physical activity guidelines is conflicting. There is a lack of evidence on how parents view their child’s physical activity and sedentary behaviours and how they can best support their children to meet national guidelines. The overall aim of this PhD thesis was to explore how parents can be supported to understand and increase their preschool child’s physical activity and reduce their sedentary behaviours.

The thesis is based on three inter-connected studies. In Study 1, interviews with mothers identified several issues that prevented them from relating to the current UK physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for preschool children. In study 2, focus groups with parents, that included a nominal group technique methodology, were held to identify potential terminology and activity examples that could be used to describe and illustrate different physical activity intensities in preschool children to parents. The results of this study produced the terms Still, Pottering, On-the-Go, and Huff and Puff to describe different physical activity intensities. In study 3, results of an online survey with parents showed that these four terms were acceptable to them. Findings from the focus groups and online survey suggested that preschools and nurseries were favoured and respected sources of information by most participants. Health professionals and social media were other positive channels for dissemination.

The main findings from this thesis suggest that parents are not aware of the physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for preschool children and have difficulty in interpreting them. Future research could explore the views of fathers and ethnic minority groups and assess whether presenting and communicating guideline information as suggested in this thesis makes it more accessible to parents.
Date of Award7 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRuss Jago (Supervisor) & Katrina M Turner (Supervisor)


  • Physical Activity
  • Sedentary Behaviour
  • Preschool children

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