Physical environmental opportunities for active play and physical activity level in preschoolers: a multicriteria analysis



Active play opportunities seems to influence the level of physical activity during childhood. However, a gap remains about which environmental opportunities including the daycare physical environment could have a positive impact on the level of physical activity in preschoolers.


(1) To develop an index to measure the environmental opportunities of free active play for preschoolers of middle-income countries; (2) to check the relationship and contribution of the index to explain objectively the level of physical activity.


A quantitative, cross-sectional, exploratory study with 51 preschool children. The established criteria for the index according to the literature were: (1) Outdoor time on typical days of the week. (2) Outdoor time on a typical weekend day. (3) The presence of internal space and external environment in the child’s home that allows playing. (4) Presence of patio with space for games at the school. (5) Presence of a playground with a toy at the school. We applied multi-attribute utility theory for the determination of the multicriteria index of physical environmental opportunities. Pearson’s correlation analysis and simple linear regression were used to verify the association between the index and the physical activity level.


The index showed a positive correlation with the level of physical activity, e.g., the average time of MVPA (r = 0.408, p = 0.003). The univariate linear regression demonstrated that the quality of physical environmental opportunities for physical activity explained 20% of the preschooler’s classification as active and 16% of the time in moderate to vigorous physical activity (p < 0.001).


Physical environmental opportunities for active play have a positive effect on physical activity in preschoolers and should be encouraged in different social segments.

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