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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Physical activity is an important part of our daily lives helping with factors such as growth and development, prevention of chronic disease, strength, energy, stress and functional independence (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011). Physical activity can be affected by many external factors including ethnicity. Ethnicity refers to a group of people that identify with each other based on common ancestral, social or cultural factors such as language and religion (Mayson, Backman, Harris & Hayes, 2009). Ethnicity, being an ethnic minority or possessing a particular ethnic origin are seen as a potential contributing factors to motor development and physical activity in a multitude of studies. Various barriers may be present that prevent these children from developing normally and engaging in physical activity. Children that do not receive enough physical activity can experience negative health consequences later in life putting them at risk for chronic disease (ParticipACTION, 2014). According to the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP, 2011) the recommended amount of physical activity for children and adolescents is 60 min/day of moderate to vigorous intensity, which many children are not reaching (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011).


Immigration may affect the amount of physical activity conducted by children due to costs, education and can vary by ethnicity. Immigrant children and youth (Gr.6-10) in Canada were less likely to be moderately active compared to Canadians overall in a study done by Kukaswadia, Pickett & Janssen (2014). One reason for this could be their low-income status or lack of education. Immigrants, especially recent immigrants, generally make less money than other Canadians (especially with no university degree) which can limit opportunities for their children, even if Canadian born, to participate on sports teams or other recreational based activities. (Statistics Canada, 2013). Getting physical activity, especially recreationally, may be more difficult for them if their parents do not have a decent paying job. Additionally, certain ethnic populations (especially if they speak little English) may not completely understand what “moderate” physical activity is so they may overestimate or underestimate their responses to questionnaires asking about physical activity (Kukaswadia et al., 2014). According to Kukaswadia et al. (2014), East and South East Asian, African, East Indian and South Asian youth that had immigrated to Canada within the last 2 years were less likely to achieve 60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity than other children that had been in Canada longer or were born in Canada. However as time since immigration increases, physical activity rates may also increase (Kukaswadia et al., 2014). The correlation between time since immigration and physical activity rates may be attributed to acculturation, the idea that a behaviour will more closely resemble the host culture as time goes on (Kukaswadia et al., 2014).

Sport Participation

The fact that immigrant children appear to be less active than Canadian born children may be related to participation in sports. Kukaswadia et al. (2014) found that less children born of immigrant parents parents were involved in sport compared to Canadian born. When looking at recent immigrants in Canada, children may find it difficult to participate in sports due to economic instability in their families, especially if they are recent immigrants. They may also find it difficult to participate in sports because they feel uncomfortable playing with children of cultures unfamiliar to them, as language barriers may present (Bowie, 2015). These potential hindrances may present themselves in any sport, including ones that are played internationally and may appear to have a low cost such as soccer (Statistics Canada, 2013).

Traditions and Customs

Ethnicities vary in their traditions and customs with regards to physical activity. Some cultures may put more of an emphasis on sports than others or in the case of North Africa may not have a very exercise conscious culture. A study done on North African child immigrants in Europe by Gualdi-Russo et al., (2014) deduced that children immigrating from North African countries may be lacking in physical activity compared to children of other ethnic backgrounds. This may be due to North Africa’s lack of exercise focus in their culture. Additionally, differences in customs can play a role in the amount of physical activity female children receive. For example, Aboriginal girls living on reservations are often discouraged from physical activity (Mason & Koehli, 2012).

The Impact of the Environment

An ethnic minority is a group of individuals living in an area that have different cultural customs than the majority ethnicity (Active Living Research, 2011). Ethnic minorities living in densely populated urban areas are more likely to have low-income residents living in them and may lack features that facilitate walking such as clean, and properly built sidewalks, and natural scenery such as trees (Active Living Research, 2011). Additionally, children that are of an ethnic minority and a low-income family may have less opportunities to go to recreational facilities due to high costs (Active Living Research, 2011). The potential financial burden may coincide with a neighbourhood that has poorly maintained parks and prevalent crime, can limit the amount of physical activity they do (Active Living Research, 2011). If children and their parents do not feel safe going outside to be physically active, it will be very difficult for the child to acquire 60 minutes on a daily basis.

The Impact of Active Transportation

Conversely, the ability to use active transportation may affect the amount of physical activity children receive. Caucasian children when compared to African-American and Mexican children differed in physical activity likelihood. African-American and Mexican American children in the U.S were more likely to accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity 5 days/week than Caucasian children (Active Living Research, 2011). Although ethnic populations may get less leisure-time physical activity, they accumulate physical activity in other ways such as walking or cycling to school since this may be their only option. Many African American and Hispanic children tend to live in fairly walkable areas according to Active Living Research (2011). Living in walkable areas would most likely facilitate physical activity as this will encourage walking to and from destinations as opposed to using a car. It is important to note however that the relationship between the built environment and physical activity in children is unclear (Active Living Research, 2011).

The Impact of Immigrant Enclaves

Living in an environment consisting of a high concentration of other immigrants may be a positive and negative contribution to physical activity. One study described the concept of “immigrant enclaves”, which are neighbourhoods with a high concentration of immigrants (Brewer & Kimbro, 2012). Parents living in immigrant enclaves may feel comfortable letting their children play outside and walk to and from school by themselves if they live around people they are comfortable with. These residents may share similar issues and values (Brewer & Kimbro, 2012). However, if there are a lot of recent immigrants in the area, parents may not trust these newcomers and conversely not allow their children to play outside (Brewer & Kimbro, 2012).

Ethnic Origin Differences in Motor Development

Ethnic origin refers to the ethnicity of the child’s ancestors (Mayson et al., 2009). Children of ethnic origins which are a minority, may experience barriers to physical activity due to issues associated with immigration, the social and physical environment and cultural traditions within their own families. According to Kelly, Sacker, Schoon & Nazroo (2006), Black Caribbean, Black African and Indian infants were less likely to show delays in motor milestone development compared to Caucasian infants in the UK. They speculate that these differences seen are genetic in nature after adjusting for socioeconomic variables. Kelly et al. (2006) also found that Pakistani and Bangladeshi infants were more likely to experience delays in fine motor movement which may be attributed to cultural factors such as low socioeconomic status. Similar results were seen in the US, Africa and the Caribbean.

Advancement differences in motor development are also seen. African-American infants in the US have shown advanced motor development compared to Caucasian infants up to the age of 2. This was demonstrated in elementary schools since African-American children appear to perform better than Caucasian and Mexican-American children in motor tasks such as the vertical jump and running dash (Malina, 1988). Differences in rate and sequence of motor development in infants of Asian and European origin as well as sequence was also seen amongst Asian and European infants in the US. In particular, a delay in motor development in Asian children was seen as a primary result. Differences in delay and advancement are likely due to genetic factors however sociocultural factors may also underlie these differences. For example delay in infants of Asian origin may be due to malnutrition or overprotection from Asian parents due to fear of injury (Mayson et al., 2007). More advanced results in motor tasks among children of African-American children may be due to the affordances provided in their households (Bredin, 2015) as well as genetics.

Delay in motor milestones can lead to detriments in motor development as they may prevent the emergence of subsequent milestones important for daily functioning and active play with other peers in sports and other scenarios.

Implications for Future Interventions

One way to increase physical activity in ethnic children would be to increase the amount of physical activity programming in schools, as this is where they will be getting the majority of their physical activity, especially if they are low income (Whitt-Glover et al., 2009). Involving the entire community may also be an aspect to consider as Taylor, Baranowski & Young (1998) found that this was crucial in increasing physical activity levels in their study. In addition, more research should be done to determine whether physical activity interventions should focus on each ethnic group separately or as a whole. For example, identifying the values and traditions of each relevant ethnicity in a region could help tailor more appropriate and efficacious interventions (Taylor et al., 1998). Furthermore measures of physical activity are often objective as they use quantitative methods of measurement (ex. using accelerometers) and different ethnic groups may have different ideas of what physical activity is and partake in activities that are not easily measured.


(2011). Do All Children Have Places to be Active? Active Living Research. Retrieved from

Bowie, L. (2015). Newcomer and Indigineous Health [powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from

Bredin, S. (2015). Toys for Developing Optimal Movement Behaviour [powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from

Brewer, M. & Kimbro, R.T. (2014). Neighborhood context immigrant children’s physical activity. Social Science and Medicine, 116, 1-9. Doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed. 2014.06.022.

Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. (2015). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Retrieved from Clark, W. (2013). Kid’s Sports. Retrieved from x/2008001/article/10573-eng.htm#a7

Gualdi-Russo, E., Zaccagni, L., Manzon, V.S., Masotti, S., Rinaldo, N., Khyatti, M. (2014). Obesity and physical activity in children of immigrants. European Journal of Public Health, 1, 40-46. Doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cku111.

Kelly, Y., Sacker, A., Schoon, I. & Nazroo, J. (2006). Ethnic differences in achievement of developmental milestones by 9 months of age: the Millennium Cohort Study. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 48, 825-830. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Olga/Downloads/544fd6ea0cf201441e935020.pdf.

Kukaswadia, A., Pickett, W. & Janssen, I. (2014). Time Since Immigration and Ethnicity as Predictors of Physical Activity among Canadian Youth: A Cross-Sectional Study. PLOS ONE, 9, 1-9. Retrieved from

Malina, R.M. (1988). Racial/ethnic variation in the motor development and performance of American children. Canadian Journal of Sport Science, 13, 136-143. Retrieved from

Mayson, T.A., Backman, C.L., Harris, S.R. & Hayes, V.E. (2009). Motor Development in Canadian Infants of Asian and European Ethnic Origins. Journal of Early Intervention, 31, 199-214. Retrieved from