23 September 2021

It's Research Thursday!

Today we are looking back at a landmark study into children's motor skill development.

The Michigan State University Motor Performance Study (MPS), followed children for over 30 years gathering data of more than 1,200 participants from Michigan. 

The program component provided instruction in Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) to children aged 2.5 to 13.0 years. The program ran for over 30 years. The research component is still ongoing and involves semi-annual collection of data on 13 growth measures and 7 motor tasks.

The MPS was led by Professor Emeritus Vern Seefeldt, "I was interested in how children learned motor skills and the tremendous possibilities that motor competence provided individuals in terms of social development, academic achievement, sport performance and healthy, lifelong leisure activities."

Some of the key findings recently published include: 

  • Children with lower levels of fitness early in childhood were likely to exhibit lower levels of fitness later in adolescence. 
  • Overall fitness levels of participants who took part in the motor skill program tended to be favourable in fitness compared to the general population. 
  • Children who did not participate in recreational sports were less likely to be in multiple sports in high school. In addition, it increased the likelihood they would not participate in sport in college.
  • Boys outperformed girls on all fitness measures at all points, except at the age of 6 and with the exception of the flexibility measure.

What does this mean?

This shows the importance of learning the essential building blocks of movement, the Fundamental Movement Skills. These skills set children up for a lifetime of being active, fit and healthy. 

Take home message

It is the responsibility of all of us; parents, educators and coaches to provide children with the opportunity, instruction and environment to master Fundamental Movement Skills.

This study is now featured in a special issue of Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science to read more about this study you can continue reading here.