Physical, Mental and Social wellbeing: A rationale for improving movement skills

It is likely that children with movement difficulties and deficits in motor control will be less willing to take part in activities that require advanced levels of these skills such as sports, playground games and other forms of physical activity.  For example, studies have shown a low level of motor proficiency in childhood is related to childhood obesity (D’Hondt et al., 2009) and physical fitness (Haga, 2006) and predicts lower adolescent physical activity behavior (Barnett et al., 2009; Kantomaa et al., 2009). 

Haubenstricker and Seefeldt (1986) suggest that proficiency in fundamental motor skill provides the foundation for the development of sport specific skills.  There is strong cross-sectional evidence to back this up such as studies by Booth et al., (2006); Okely & Booth, (2004) and Wrotniak et al., (2006). 

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are basic movements developed in early childhood (Clarke, 2005) that provide the basis for developing advanced, autonomous movement patterns we require for the performance of sports for example.  These skills are based around locomotion (running, jumping) object control (throwing, catching) and postural control (balancing, stability) and significantly contribute to children’s physical, cognitive and social development (Lubans et al., 2010). 

The meta-analysis by Lubans et al (2010) revealed that there was a strong positive relationship between FMS competency and physical activity as well as cardio-respiratory fitness in 21 cross-sectional studies.  There was also a strong inverse relationship with FMS competency and weight status.  Other factors such as global self concept, perceived physical competence, muscular fitness, flexibility and sedentary behaviours were ‘uncertain’ according to the authors. 

So this demonstrates the strong relationship between the motor skill competency and physical health, however one area stands out as of particular interest to me.  Object control is a skill which is required to be highly developed for a number of sports-specific tasks.  As an interceptive skill, catching in particular is one of the hardest classifications of skill due to strict temporal and spatial constraints, yet studies such as Barnett et al (2009) suggested that the competent performance of object control skills in childhood may be a significant factor in the participation in adolescent physical activity.  They suggest this is due to these skills being associated with moderate/vigorous intensity of physical activity such as organized sports.  In support of this, Hume et al (2008) concluded from their study of FMS, weight status and physical activity that “regardless of weight, improving movement skill proficiency among children is a potential avenue for promoting increased physical activity” (Hume et al., 2008, p.164).

This is not always the case however as Okely et al (2004) found that although there were significant associations between weight status (calculated through BMI) and FMS, when partitioned to the three areas of FMS, object control no longer had a significant association with weight status in the majority of demographics.  It should be noted however that in both the Okely and Barnett studies qualitative or unreliable methods such as surveys, questionnaires and observations were used to measure FMS competency.  In a study using a quantitative method of FMS assessment (MABC), D’Hondt et al (2006) found that normal and overweight children were significantly better at ball skills (throwing and catching) compared to obese children.  Zivani Poulsen & Hansen (2009) also used the MABC and found that age appropriate ball skills resulted in greater levels of physical activity although this wasn’t to a significant level.


Barnett, L. M., Morgan, P. J., van Beurden, E., & Beard, J. R. (2008). Perceived sports competence mediates the relationship between childhood motor proficiency and adolescent physical activity and fitness: a longitudinal assessment. International Journal of Behvioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(40),

Barnett, L. M., Van Beurden, E., Morgan, P. J., O’Brooks, L., & Beard, J. R. (2008). Does childhood motor proficiency predict adolescent fitness? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(12), 2137-2144.

Barnett, L. M., van Beurden, E., Morgan, P. J., O’Brooks, L., & Beard, J. R. (2009). Childhood Motor Skill Proficiency as a Predictor of Adolescent Physical Activity. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44, 252-259.

Booth, M. L., Okely, A. D., Denney-Wilson, E., Hardy, L., Yang, B., & Dobbins, T. (2006). NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS). NSW Department of Health.

Breslin, G., Hodges, N. J., Kennedy, R., Hanlon, M., & Williams, A. M. (2010). An especial skill: Support for a learned parameters hypothesis. Acta Psychologica, 134, 55-60.

Clark, J. E. (2005). From the Beginning: A Developmental Perspective on Movement and Mobility. Quest, 57, 37-45.

Haga, M. (2008). The relationship between physical fitness and motor competence in children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 34(3), 329-334.

Haubenstricker J, Seefeldt V. Acquisition of motor skills during childhood. In: Reston V, editor.  Physical Activity and Well-Being. Reston (VA): AAHPERD; 1986. p. 41–92.

Hume, C., Okely, A. D., Bagley, S., Telford, A., Booth, M. L., Crawford, D., et al. (2008). Does Weight Status Influence Associations Between Children’s Fundamental Movement Skills and Physical Activity? Research Quarterly fo Exercise and Sport, 79(2), 158-165.

Kantomaa, M. T., Purtsi, J., Taanila, A. M., Remes, J., H., V., Rintala, P., et al. (2011). Suspected Motor Problems and Low Preference for Active Play in Childhood Are Associated with Physical Inactivity and Low Fitness in Adolescence. Motor Skills and Exercise, 6(1-8).

Lubans, D. R., Morgan, P. J., Cliff, D. P., Barnett, L. M., & Okely, A. D. (2010). Fundamental Movement Skills in Children and Adolescents. Sports Medicine, 40(12), 1019-1035.

Milton, J., Soloskin, A., & Small, S. L. (2007). The mind of expert motor performance is cool and focused. Neuroimage, 35, 804-813.

Okely, A. D., & Booth, M. L. (2004). Mastery of fundamental movement skills amoung children in New South Wales: prevelence and Sociodemographic distribution. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 7(3), 358-372.

Okely, A. D., Booth, M. L., & Chey, T. (2004). Relationships Between Body Composition and Fundamental Movement Skills Among Children and Adolescents. Research Quarterly fo Exercise and Sport, 75(3), 238-247.

Okely, A. D., Booth, M. L., & Patterson, J. W. (2001). Relationship of Cardiorespiratory Endurance to Fundamental Movement Skill Proficiency Among Adolescents. Pediatric Exercise Science, 13(4), 380-391.

Vickers, J. N. (2007). Perception, Cognition and Decicion Making: The Quiet Eye in Action. Champaign: IL: Human Kinetics.

Wrotniak, B., Epstein, H. L. H., Dorn, J. M., Jones, K. E., & Kondilis, V. A. (2006). The relationship between motor proficiency and physical activity in children. Pediatrics, 118, 1758-1765.

Ziviani, J., Poulsen, A., & Hansen, C. (2009). Movement skills proficiency and physical activity: A case for Engaging and Coaching for Health (EACH)-Child. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 56, 259-265.


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