Examining the impact of physical activity (PA) and nutrition policies and interventions in childcare and preschool settings on PA levels, consumption of healthier foods and body weight outcomes.


Given the widespread use of out-of-home childcare facilities in Canada, and the considerable amount of time spent by preschoolers in these environments, this setting has great potential for the promotion of healthier weights.1 As such, development of policies and interventions aimed at promoting healthy physical activity (PA) and/or nutrition environments in this setting may be a promising strategy in the prevention of overweight and obesity. This evidence synthesis explores the effectiveness of PA and nutrition childcare policies and interventions on PA levels, consumption of healthier foods, and body weight outcomes.

Key Findings

  • Findings from this synthesis indicate that childcare PA and nutrition interventions can result in positive outcomes related to PA levels and consumption of healthier foods. Positive outcomes related to body weight were limited, potentially due to short durations between intervention and follow-up measures.
  • Relevant factors identified within reviews to successfully increase PA levels included increasing the availability and quality of play equipment (3, 4, 5), allocating time for organized PA sessions (3), staff education and training (3), integrating opportunities for PA into classroom curriculum (2, 3), and PA sessions that lasted at least 30 minutes (5).
  • Strategies identified within reviews as successfully increasing consumption of healthier foods often included one or more of the following strategies: modifying foodservice practices (2), offering training workshops to staff (5), and classroom-based education for students (2).
  • Additional research is required at the policy level that clearly measures the impact of existing childcare policies on outcomes of interest, in addition to examining policy implementation factors. Given the paucity of research focused on Canadian childcare settings, future studies in this area would be especially useful. 

Explore Policies Related to Obesity Prevention

(CPAC)’s Prevention Policies Directory
The Directory is a freely accessible online database of policies relating to cancer and chronic disease prevention, many of which address obesity prevention. It allows users to search by risk factor, jurisdiction, geographical location, and document type and provides summaries and direct access to policy documents.

Click Here to find policies related to physical activity and nutrition in childcare settings in the Prevention Policies Directory 


  1. Mikkelsen MV., Husby S, Skov LR, Perez-Cueto FJ. A systematic review of types of healthy eating interventions in preschools. Nutrition journal. [Review]. 2014;13:56.
  2. Larson N, Ward DS, Neelon SB, Story M. What role can child-care settings play in obesity prevention? A review of the evidence and call for research efforts. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t Review]. 2011 Sep;111(9):1343-62.
  3. Ward DS, Vaughn A, McWilliams C, Hales D. Physical Activity at Child Care Settings: Review and Research Recommendations. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2009;3(6):474-88.
  4. Gordon ES, Tucker P, Burke SM, Carron AV. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for preschoolers: a meta-analysis. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. [Meta-Analysis]. 2013 Sep;84(3):287-94.
  5. Kreichauf S, Wildgruber A, Krombholz H, Gibson EL, Vogele C, Nixon CA, et al. Critical narrative review to identify educational strategies promoting physical activity in preschool. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t Review]. 2012 Mar;13 Suppl 1:96-105.