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Motor Skills Lag in Poor Preschoolers

Delays in running, catching, throwing lead to sedentary lifestyle, study finds

FRIDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- More than three-quarters of disadvantaged preschool children in the United States have trouble with basic motor skills, such as running, jumping, throwing and catching, a new study finds.

This means these children are at risk of giving up on physical activity and becoming obese teens and adults, the researchers added.

"These fundamental motor skills -- running and catching and throwing and kicking -- are the movement ABCs," study author Jackie Goodway, an associate professor of physical activity and educational services at Ohio State University, said in a news release from the school.

"If children don't learn the ABCs, they can't read. And if they don't learn basic motor skills they won't participate in sports or exercise. That's the problem we may be facing with the children in this study," Goodway added.

Goodway and colleagues tested 469 preschoolers enrolled in urban, state-funded programs for disadvantaged youth and found that 86 percent of the children were developmentally delayed in terms of basic motor skills. Girls and boys had similar scores on motor skills, but girls did much worse in object control activities, such as using a ball or a bat.

The study was recently published in the journal Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

"Most people, even many educators, believe that motor skills just naturally develop in children, but our study shows that's clearly not true," Goodway said. "Like any skill, there needs to be instruction, there needs to be practice, there needs to be feedback. That's how children master these motor skills."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and exercise.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, April 26, 2010

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