The childrens’ world of movement has changed dramatically during the last decades. As a consequence motor performance decreases particularly in children affected by overweight and obesity. This study analyses the influence of the body mass index (BMI) on motor performance of pre-school children.
In a cross-sectional study including 41 kindergartens in Tyrol (Austria), 4- to 5-year-old children (n = 1,063) were recruited. Four BMI groups were used according to a German BMI reference system: Group I (anorexic/underweight), group II (normal weight), group III (overweight) and group IV (obese). Motor performance was assessed by the use of the Karlsruhe Motorik-Screening (KMS 3–6).
Out of the 1,063 preschool children (550 ♂, 513 ♀) 7.6 % (n = 81) were overweight and 5.5 % (n = 58) were obese. The results demonstrate that motor performance of under- and overweight preschool-children is not different from children with normal BMI, but obese children had significantly lower motor performance (p < 0.001).
The prevalence of overweight and obese Tyrolean preschool children is similar to those of non-mountainous areas of Austria and Germany. The fact that motor performance is reduced only in obese children suggests that targeted promotion of physical activity is urgently needed for preschool children particularly considering children with a risk to develop obesity. Besides the efforts of parents, nursery schools are the ideal setting for intervention measures.