Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Con Burns

Second Advisor

Dr. Cian O'Neill

Third Advisor

Dr. Edward Coughlan


Background: Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are basic observable patterns of movement. Although FMS are positively associated with health, FMS levels among children worldwide are low. Interventions to improve FMS and markers of health among children are warranted. Thus, the purpose of this research was to firstly evaluate the FMS proficiency and markers of health of Irish primary school children, and to design and implement a programme of interventions to improve both.

Methods: Two interventions (1 Physical Activity [PA] and 1 FMS) were implemented and evaluated using children from 3 primary schools in Cork. Children (N=217, mean age: 7.98±2.00 years) from senior infants (n=107, mean age: 6.00±0.40 years) and 4th class (n=110, mean age: 9.91±0.40 years) participated in the PA intervention evaluation. Children (N=466, mean age: 8.54±2.09 years) from senior infants and 1st class (n=222, mean age: 6.45±0.62 years), and 4th and 5th class (n=244, mean age: 10.44±0.59 years) participated in the FMS intervention evaluation. The Test of Gross Motor Development-2 was used to measure FMS proficiency. Other measures recorded were: height, mass, waist circumference (WC), heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference-to-height ratio (WHtR). Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) (measured using the 550m run/walk), physical activity (PA) (measured via accelerometry) and perceived FMS competence (measured using the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Movement Skill Competence) were also recorded. Correlation and regression analyses were used to investigate the relationship between FMS and markers of health (BMI percentile, WC percentile, HR, BP percentile, 550m time SDS and PA). Repeated measures ANOVAs and ANCOVAs were used to examine the effectiveness of the two interventions on FMS and markers of health.

Results:Although there were no significant relationships revealed between FMS and BMI, heart rate and BP, significant positive relationships were found with CRF (6 and 10 year olds respectively: r=.286 and r=.330; p

Conclusion: While a generic PA intervention had favourable effects on children’s adiposity levels, it failed to positively impact on FMS. However, a specifically designed FMS-based intervention was subsequently effective at improving FMS while concurrently reducing adiposity and enhancing CRF. Thus, FMS-based interventions should be implemented in Irish primary schools to improve both FMS and health.


Chapters published in peer-reviewed journals:

Chapter 4: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport on 01 February 2019, available online:

Some of the work presented in this thesis was also included in the following peer-reviewed article:

Accepted author manuscript version reprinted, by permission, from Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 6(1), 81-100. © Human Kinetics, Inc.

NB*: Additional FMS resources, including lesson plans and teaching material can be found in the attached additional files.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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