Parents have big influence on kids' physical activity, study finds

January 14, 2013 by Kate Toogood
Kerry Vander Ploeg, a PhD candidate with UAlberta's School of Public Health, found that parental encouragement makes kids more likely to be physically active.

(Medical Xpress)—With New Year's resolutions upon us, new research from the University of Alberta offers encouragement for parents who want to achieve fitness for the whole family.

Kerry Vander Ploeg, a PhD candidate with the School of Public Health, looked into whether parents' beliefs about and support for are associated with 's .

Vander Ploeg and her U of A supervisor, Paul Veugelers, Canada Research Chair in , analyzed from 6,585 students and their parents through the REAL Kids Alberta project. They found that parental care, encouragement and engagement in physical activity resulted in a decrease in the number of overweight children—and the more encouragement, the better. Children whose parents encouraged them "very much" were 22 per cent less likely to be overweight than those whose parents encouraged them "quite a lot."

Other parental factors, such as engaging in activities with children and caring about their own physical activity, were independently and positively associated with physical activity, regardless of whether the children were of normal weight or overweight.

"Parental encouragement on its own makes a difference in the amount of a child's physical activity, regardless of these other factors," Vander Ploeg said, noting that insufficient physical activity is one of the most significant for . "It's reassuring that even small demonstrations of support, regardless of whether you are physically active yourself, have a positive effect on the health of your child."

Vander Ploeg says the findings can help parents ensure their children lead healthy, active lives.

"It's not just about signing your kids up for , which can be expensive," she said. "You don't even need to be an all-star athlete yourself to have healthy, active children. We found that the more you care and the more you encourage, the more likely kids are to be physically active."

She is also quick to point out the significance of the link between parental encouragement and physical activity among overweight children.

"Most overweight children report greater barriers to physical activity, such as finding activities they enjoy and feel comfortable engaging in, how competitive they are with their peers, and even basic physical barriers such as their ability to use gym or playground equipment," Vander Ploeg said. "Although need more encouragement than those who are of normal weight, parental support seems to address, and even remove, some of these barriers."

The research, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, indicates that health promotion strategies to increase parents' awareness of the value of encouragement can do a lot to increase children's active living habits.

"Intervening at schools and generating excitement about physical activity can help children bring some of that excitement home," Vander Ploeg said. "Schools can educate parents about the value of supporting their children being physically active so kids can be active on days when they aren't in school.

"You have to encourage them to be active, and create that supportive environment so they can continue to make healthy choices and learn those healthy, active living habits."

Explore further: Experts: Gym gone but not forgotten? Parents want more physical activity at school for kids

More information: journal.cpha.ca/index.php/cjph/article/view/3207

Related Stories

Experts: Gym gone but not forgotten? Parents want more physical activity at school for kids

April 18, 2011
Childhood obesity affects 1 of every 6 kids in the United States, in part due to a lack of physical activity. Schools can play a key part in offering elementary-age kids lots of chances to be active—on the playground ...

Parents can increase children's activity by increasing their own

July 30, 2012
Parents concerned about their children's slothful ways can do something about it, according to research at National Jewish Health. They can increase their own activity. In the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Physical Activity ...

Parents talking to their teens about being overweight

November 8, 2012
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 28% of adolescents are overweight. This means that about 1 in every 5 parents is thinking about how to discuss this with their child. Creating a healthful ...

Parents important in steering kids away from sedentary activities

April 30, 2012
Parents can have a significant impact in steering young children away from too much time spent in sedentary pursuits. This new study, in the American Journal of Health Promotion, found this effect in Hispanic families, whose ...

Medication use higher among overweight, obese kids

October 4, 2012
Overweight children are far more likely to take prescription medications than children of a normal weight—a trend that adds to already higher health-care costs for treating childhood obesity, according to new research from ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.