Document Type



Background: Physical inactivity is a recognized public health concern. Inadequate proportions of children in the U.S, including those of preschool age, are meeting physical activity recommendations. In response to low numbers of preschool children attaining appropriate physical activity levels, combined with the large number of young children who attend preschool, researchers have identified the need to devise interventions to increase physical activity at preschools. However, few multi-component interventions to increase physical activity in preschool children exist. The aims of this study were to observe the effects of a multi-component intervention on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and physical activity energy expenditure in 3-5 year-old children; identify factors that associate with change in those variables; and evaluate the process of implementing the multi-component intervention. The purpose of this manuscript is to describe the study design and intervention protocol.

Methods/design: The overall design of the Study of Health and Activity in Preschool Environments (SHAPES) was a two-year randomized trial (nested cohort design), with two conditions, two measurement occasions, and preschool serving as the unit of analysis. Sixteen schools (eight intervention and eight control) were enrolled. The intervention protocol was based on the social ecological model and included four main components: (a) indoor physical activity (“move inside”), (b) recess (“move outside”), (c) daily lessons (“move to learn”), and (d) social environment. Components were implemented using teacher and administrator trainings and workshops, site support visits, newsletters, and self-monitoring methods. Outcomes included accelerometer assessment of physical activity, sedentary behavior, and physical activity energy expenditure; weight status; and demographic factors; family/home social and physical environment; and parental characteristics. An extensive process evaluation battery was also used to monitor dose delivered by interventionists, completeness of intervention component delivery by teachers, and fidelity of teachers’ implementation.

Discussion: The study will address important gaps relative to increasing physical activity in preschool children. Few studies to date have incorporated a multi-component approach, rigorous measurement protocol, and thorough evaluation of intervention implementation.

Trial registration: NCT01885325

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



© 2013 Pfeiffer et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

APA Citation

Pfeiffer, K., Saunders, R., Brown, W., Dowda, M., Addy, C., & Pate, R. (2013). Study of Health and Activity in Preschool Environments (SHAPES): Study protocol for a randomized trial evaluating a multi-component physical activity intervention in preschool children. BMC Public Health, 13(728).