Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


The overall purpose of this Doctorate was to conduct a number of studies to add to the evidence-base in the area of sedentary behaviour and health in young children (1-5 years) and potentially make an important contribution to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for children by promoting best practice in childcare centres. This Doctorate comprises a literature review and four papers from four studies and addresses several gaps in the literature regarding sedentary behaviour in young children.

The first study examined total sitting, standing and physical activity time, socio-demographic distribution and compliance with both the Institute of Medicine (IOM) sedentary behaviour and physical activity recommendations among 301 young children (1 to 5years) from 11 childcare centres. In the sample, young children spent almost half of their time at childcare sitting. Pre-schoolers and girls spent significantly more time sitting and were less likely to meet sedentary behaviour recommendations compared to toddlers and boys.

The second study identified educators’ perceptions of what environmental and policy modifications could be made within childcare settings to reduce sitting time among children during childcare. Educators identified that childcare practices, the physical environment and the weather were factors that influenced children’s sitting time. Potential solutions were to break up prolonged sitting time by using movement-breaks, standing desks, movement transitions between activities, relocating key facilities around the space to promote movement, and integrating movement during learning activities.

The third study used the potential solutions developed by educators from the previous study to examine the acute effects of a "sit less, stand and move more" pre-school day on executive function and musculoskeletal health in pre-school aged children. The study also examined if there were any compensatory effects made by pre-school aged children on energy expenditure and energy intake as a result of a modified "sit less, stand and move more" pre-school day. This study found that replacing sitting time with standing was unlikely to result in changes in executive function and musculoskeletal health over an acute period of time among young children. No compensatory effects were found.

The findings from Studies 1-3 informed the development of Study 4. This study examined the feasibility, acceptability and potential efficacy of a childcare-based intervention to reduce total and prolonged sitting time in pre-schoolers. This study involved four centres and 115 pre-schoolers who participated in a 12-week, 2-arm pilot cluster randomized controlled trial. Feasibility and acceptability were assessed through observations and semi-structured interviews. Sitting time, breaks and bouts of sitting during childcare were assessed using an activPAL over a one-week period at pre- and post-test (12 weeks). Modifications to the childcare environment to reducing sitting, particularly the standing workstations, were feasible and acceptable to educators and pre-schoolers. No differences in sitting time between groups were seen.

To conclude, the findings from this Doctorate contributed to the evidence-base in the area of sedentary behaviour and health in young children. These findings provide important implications for the development of future interventions to reduce young children’s sitting time to optimise young children’s health and well-being.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.