Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Dawn P. Coe

Committee Members

Eugene C. Fitzhugh, Lyndsey M. Hornbuckle, Mary Jane Moran


The purpose of this study was to determine the differences in time spent in physical activity (PA), as assessed by the amount of time spent in PA, vector magnitude (counts/15 sec.), MET values, and energy expenditure (kcal/min), between two outdoor environments (natural playground and garden) in preschool children. Participants were twenty-five children (4.4±0.7 years) enrolled in a university laboratory preschool. PA was assessed using an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer that was worn on the right hip. Each child completed four randomly ordered conditions (30 min each), which included two bouts of unstructured PA on the natural playground and two bouts of semistructured PA in the garden. Accelerometer data were classified as minutes in sedentary behavior and total PA combining varying intensities (light, moderate, and vigorous). Data were averaged to make one 30 min bout for each environment. Paired Samples T-Tests were conducted to look at differences in PA, vector magnitude, corrected metabolic equivalents (METS), and energy expenditure between the two environments. On average, the children spent 17.7 min/half hour in total PA on the playground and 15.0 min/half hour in total PA in the garden with no significant differences in PA (p=0.053), or sedentary time (p=0.052). The playground had a higher average vector magnitude compared to the garden (793.4±209.6 vs.635.9±191.5 counts/15 sec.; p<0.05), corrected MET level (2.9±0.6 vs. 2.5±0.4 ml/kg/min; p<0.05), as well as energy expenditure (1.8±0.5 vs. 1.5±0.3 kcal/min; p<0.05). Overall, the children exceeded Institute of Medicine activity guidelines (15 min/hour of PA) in both environments and averaged a light intensity of activity for the outdoor session. These data suggest that gardens may be as beneficial as the natural playground environment in providing an opportunity for children to meet PA recommendations.

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Kinesiology Commons