Parent's physical activity associated with preschooler activity in underserved populations

January 9, 2017
Credit: Robert Kraft/public domain

Preschool-age children from low-income families are more likely to be physically active if parents increase activity and reduce sedentary behavior while wearing movement monitors (accelerometers), according to a Vanderbilt study published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study, which examined the impact of parent modeling of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviors in low-income American ethnic minorities, included data from more than 1,000 parent-child pairs. About 75 percent of the children were Latino and almost 10 percent, African-American. The participants live in metro areas of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, and Nashville, Tennessee.

During the research period, each parent and child wore an accelerometer for an average of 12 hours a day, for a week. This is the first study to link the physical activity of parents and young children by objectively measuring that physical activity with such a long wear time for an accelerometer.

Researchers found that the preschoolers' total physical activity was 6.03 hours per day with 1.5 hours spent in moderate to vigorous activity.

"This study highlights how important parents' physical activity is to shaping their young children's physical activity," said principal investigator Shari Barkin, M.D., MSHS, William K. Warren Foundation Professor in Medicine, director of Pediatric Obesity Research, and chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

"The good news is that increasing physical activity is not only good for parents' health, it also helps set these behaviors in their young children as well. It's doubly good for family health. Setting this habit early could impact good health not only in childhood but in adulthood as well."

Physical activity is a critical factor for preventing childhood obesity and promoting good cardiovascular health. Recommendations call for preschoolers to obtain about three hours a day of total physical activity (light, moderate and vigorous) with at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), but reports show that less than half of preschoolers actually achieve that recommendation.

In this study, about 60 percent of the children were normal weight, while 30 percent were overweight and 10 percent were obese. More than three-fourths of the parents were overweight or obese. During the period examined, parents and children wore the accelerometers more than 12 hours each day.

Researchers saw a strong association between parent and child sedentary behavior and mild physical activity. They also found that up to 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by a parent correlated with their preschool-age child's level of MVPA.

For every minute that a parent spent in sedentary behavior, the child's sedentary behavior increased by 0.10 minutes. Similarly, for every minute a parent engaged in light physical activity, the child's light physical activity increased by 0.06 minutes. Increasing parental physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior correlated with increased physical activity behaviors in children, the researchers concluded.

This study is part of Barkin's ongoing research into childhood obesity.

"We are completing a three-year-long intervention for childhood obesity prevention, called the Growing Right Onto Wellness (GROW) Trial, that includes parents' healthy lifestyle behaviors as well as their children's healthy behaviors for more than 600 parent-child pairs. We will be able to examine how parents and children can utilize their existing built and social environments to maximize good health and to set and maintain healthy habits," she said.

Explore further: Study finds that few children meet daily exercise guideline goals

More information: Shari L. Barkin et al. Parent's Physical Activity Associated With Preschooler Activity in Underserved Populations, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.11.017

Related Stories

Study finds that few children meet daily exercise guideline goals

January 9, 2017
Guidelines recommend that children get an hour of exercise every day, including a half hour during school. Unfortunately, a study finds that few kids are meeting that goal, with girls particularly likely to fall short during ...

Direct and active parent involvement key to healthy living for kids

August 24, 2016
Parents who directly and actively engage their children in healthy living behaviour - instead of passively 'supporting' the behaviour - are significantly more likely to see their kids meet Canadian guidelines when it comes ...

Many parents lack the confidence to get their kids to exercise

September 12, 2016
If Canadian parents are going to get their kids to exercise more, they need more than just public awareness campaigns.

Few children get 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily

April 5, 2016
Children are far from meeting national guidelines for physical activity, and girls are at greatest risk of falling short of recommendations according to a study measuring the physical activity of 453 schoolchildren in Massachusetts ...

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 ...

Half of all UK seven year olds not exercising for recommended minimum

August 21, 2013
Half of all UK seven year olds are sedentary for six to seven hours every day, and only half clock up the recommended daily minimum of moderate to vigorous physical activity, indicates research published in the online journal ...

Recommended for you

Study shows probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants

August 17, 2017
A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at ...

Children who sleep an hour less at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

August 15, 2017
A study has found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

Low blood sugars in newborns linked to later difficulties

August 8, 2017
A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that shows up by age 4.5 years.

Can breast milk feed a love of vegetables?

August 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Want your preschooler to eat veggies without a fuss? Try eating veggies while you're breast-feeding.

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

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.