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Parental Modeling of Physical Activity Aids Kids’ Health

Parental Modeling of Physical Activity Aids Kids' HealthTired of the summertime couch potatoes your kids have become? If so, you may need to strap on your running shoes as research suggests an effective method to improve our kids’ activity level is to be more active ourselves.

Researchers from National Jewish Health discovered when parents increase their daily activity, as measured by a pedometer, their children increase theirs as well.

“It has long been known that parent and child activity levels are correlated,” said Kristen Holm, Ph.D. “This is the first intervention-based study to prospectively demonstrate that when parents increase their activity, children increase theirs as well. The effect was more pronounced on weekends.”

The study is published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

In the study, 83 families were enrolled in a family-based intervention designed to prevent excess weight gain among overweight and obese children ages 7 to 14. Parents and children participated in a program based on the small-changes approach promoted by the America on the Move initiative.

Children and parents were encouraged to increase their physical activity by walking an additional 2,000 steps per day. Mothers in all 83 families participated in the program, while only 34 fathers participated.

On days that mothers reached or exceeded their 2000-step goal, children took an average of 2,117 additional steps, compared to 1,175 additional steps when mothers did not reach their goal.

Father-child activity showed a similar pattern. Overall, for each 1,000 additional steps a mother took, the child took 196 additional steps. The effect of parental activity was most pronounced on Saturdays and Sundays.

Investigators believe the strong weekend effect occurred because parents and children exercised together more frequently on weekends. Accordingly, researchers believe weekends may be a particularly effective time for parents to foster additional activity by their children.

Notable was the relative short-term carry-over; that is, a parent’s current day’s activity had the most effect, while the previous day and week had an attenuated effect.

Parents’ baseline activity did not predict a child’s change in activity, although a child’s baseline activity did; children who were less active at baseline took more additional steps than did more active children.

Source: National Jewish Health

Parents helping child exercise photo by shutterstock.

Parental Modeling of Physical Activity Aids Kids’ Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Parental Modeling of Physical Activity Aids Kids’ Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 31 Jul 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.