Background: Physical activity provides many health benefits, yet few children meet the physical activity recommendations. In school-age children, low proficiency in fundamental movement skills (FMS) is associated with low physical activity (PA). It is unknown if the same relationship exists in pre-schoolers (aged 3–5 years).
Objectives: The aims of this review were to firstly evaluate interventions for improving FMS and PA levels in children aged 3–5 years and 5–12 years, and secondly to determine, where possible, if there is a similar relationship between change in FMS and change in PA across both age groups.
Methods: A systematic search of electronic databases was conducted up until 20 July 2017. Controlled trials that implemented an FMS/PA intervention and measured PA levels (objective/subjective) and FMS (objective) in healthy children between the ages of 3 and 12 years were included. Sub-analysis was conducted based on the type of intervention (teacher-led [TL] or teacher educated), sessions per week (< 3 or ≥ 3) and age group.
Results: Search terms yielded 17,553 articles, of which 18 met the inclusion criteria. There was significant improvement in FMS with TL interventions of three or more sessions per week (standardised mean difference = 0.23 [0.11–0.36]; p = 0.0002). In TL interventions, there was a strong negative correlation between moderate–vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary behaviour (SB) (r = − 0.969; p = 0.031).
Conclusions: There are limited studies measuring both FMS and PA following an FMS intervention, especially in school-aged children. Results indicate that training pre-schoolers at least three times a week in FMS can improve proficiency, increase intensity of PA, and reduce SB, possibly helping to reduce the burden of childhood obesity and its associated health risks.