Effects of active and active structured play on physical activity in preschool children – A systematic review

Mini-Oral Presentation B1.5


  • Carina Nigg University of Bern; Karlsuhe Institute of Technology
  • Mirnes Dekanovic University of Bern
  • Simon Endes Ecoplan AG- Economic Research and Policy Consultancy
  • Claudio R. Nigg University of Bern
  • Mirko Schmidt University of Bern




Active Play, Preschool, Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior


Background: While it is well known that active play is an essential behavior in preschool children, less is known how its structure, specifically active free and structured play, impacts physical activity. Purpose: To systematically review the literature on active free and structured play. Methods: We searched six major databases for relevant literature. To be included, studies were required to 1) report on an active structured or free play intervention, 2) include children ≤7 years, and 3) investigate effects on physical activity or sedentary behavior. Results: Of 9,768 search results obtained, 45 publications were included. Most studies were conducted in preschools and investigated active free play interventions which mainly consisted of environmental changes (e.g., equipment provision) and additional play time. Active structured play interventions consisted of physically active games and play-based motor skill activities. Compared to treatment-as-usual, most studies showed that free play was effective in increasing device-based moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and decreasing sedentary behavior. Most studies indicated that free play was not effective in improving motor skills. Structured play results for physical activity and sedentary behavior were heterogenous. Conclusions: Active free play can be useful to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior. For motor skill improvement, other physical activity types should be implemented. Future research should expand research on active structured play. For both active free and structured play, the scope should be expanded beyond physical activity and motor skill outcomes. Funding: Health Promotion Switzerland



How to Cite

Nigg, C., Dekanovic, M., Endes, S., Nigg, C., & Schmidt, M. (2021). Effects of active and active structured play on physical activity in preschool children – A systematic review: Mini-Oral Presentation B1.5. The Health & Fitness Journal of Canada, 14(3). https://doi.org/10.14288/hfjc.v14i3.594

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