Factors associated with changes in movement behaviors in toddlers and preschoolers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national cross-sectional study in Mexico

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Preventive Medicine Reports


Little is known about physical activity, screen time and sleep among Mexican toddlers and preschoolers. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of childcare education centers and restrictions to spend time outdoors. This study aimed to investigate the correlates of changes in movement behaviors from before to during the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown in a national sample of toddlers and preschoolers in Mexico. A cross-sectional study was conducted using an open online survey completed by caretakers of children aged 1–5 years from April to July 2020. The questionnaire enquired about the time spent in each movement behavior during a regular week before and during lockdown, and family and household characteristics. Factors associated with changes in movement behaviors were explored using adjusted linear regression models. A total of 631 children (3.3y, 95% CI: 3.1, 3.4) were included in the study. During lockdown, physical activity decreased by 25%, screen time doubled, and sleep quality declined in 17% (p < 0.001). Toddlers and preschoolers of older age, attending a childcare education center before the lockdown, with a screen in their bedroom, higher access to electronic devices, and lower socioeconomic level experienced greater changes during this period. Those with limits on the use of electronic devices, who had someone available to play with them, and availability of toys experienced less pronounced changes. Pandemic restrictions have impacted movement behaviors of toddlers and preschoolers, with disproportionate effects among lower socioeconomic levels. Interventions with a multi-level equity-oriented approach are urgently needed to mitigate these effects.

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