Figure 1. A child developing his motor skills.

School Physical Activity Intervention’s Impact on Children’s Motor Skills

By: Ramanjot Singh ‘19

Figure 1. A child developing his motor skills.

Previous research has shown that quality physical education may improve children’s focus on tasks. Dr. Ryan Burns from the University of Utah decided to further these findings by analyzing the effects of enhanced physical activity on children’s gross motor skills. He hypothesized that installing a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programming (CSPAP) would significantly advance their motor skills.

For 36 weeks, CSPAP’s physical activity leaders worked with the physical education personnel at five schools to improve their physical education programs, as well as adding two to three ten-minute activity breaks during the school day. Dr. Burns then used the third edition Test for Gross Motor Development (TGMD-3) to compare the motor skill level at which each child was before the intervention to after the intervention. The total sample size for this study was 959 children ranging from first grade to sixth grade.

The TGMD-3 pre-and-post intervention results indicated significant increases in gross motor skills. For example, children showed an increase in both locomotor, general movement such as walking and running, and ball skills, with an overall total motor skill increase of 8 points. These results were identified as statistically significant, indicating that increased physical activity does indeed correlate with improved cognitive and motor performance. Despite the significant results, there are several limitations to the study that may have influenced the data received. The researchers neglected to have a control group, and only sampled low-income children from a small concentrated area in the Western region of the United States. The limitations constrain the generalization of the results; nevertheless the results are considered profound enough to support further studies on the use of CSPAP.



  1. Burns, R., et al., School physical activity programming and gross motor skills in children. American Journal of Health Behavior 41, 591-598 (2017). doi:10.5993/AJHB.41.5.8.
  2. Image retrieved from:

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