Young Zanzibari children with iron deficiency, iron deficiency anemia, stunting, or malaria have lower motor activity scores and spend less time in locomotion

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Nutrition








Motor activity improves cognitive and social-emotional development through a child's exploration of his or her physical and social environment. This study assessed anemia, iron deficiency, hemoglobin (Hb), length-for-age Z-score (LAZ), and malaria infection as predictors of motor activity in 771 children aged 5-19 mo. Trained observers conducted 2- to 4-h observations of children's motor activity in and around their homes. Binary logistic regression assessed the predictors of any locomotion. Children who did not locomote during the observation (nonmovers) were excluded from further analyses. Linear regression evaluated the predictors of total motor activity (TMA) and time spent in locomotion for all children who locomoted during the observation combined (movers) and then separately for crawlers and walkers. Iron deficiency (77.0%), anemia (58.9%), malaria infection (33.9%), and stunting (34.6%) were prevalent. Iron deficiency with and without anemia, Hb, LAZ, and malaria infection significantly predicted TMA and locomotion in all movers. Malaria infection significantly predicted less TMA and locomotion in crawlers. In walkers, iron deficiency anemia predicted less activity and locomotion, whereas higher Hb and LAZ significantly predicted more activity and locomotion, even after controlling for attained milestone. Improvements in iron status and growth and prevention or effective treatment of malaria may improve children's motor, cognitive, and social-emotional development either directly or through improvements in motor activity. However, the relative importance of these factors is dependent on motor development, with malaria being important for the younger, less developmentally advanced children and Hb and LAZ becoming important as children begin to attain walking skills. © 2007 American Society for Nutrition.