Research Study Abstract

Is Parental Physical Activity an Influential Factor on PA in Children?

  • Added on July 5, 2012

Purpose The increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents has been associated with a decline in physical activity (PA). The majority of children display insufficient activity levels (Trojano et al, 2008). Various environmental and biological constraints have been shown to influence children’s PA but only limited information is available on the effects of parental behaviour. Therefore, this study examined the effect of parental sports participation on children’s PA and body composition.

Methods Baseline data from the school-based health promotion programme ”Komm mit in das gesunde Boot” (Join the Healthy Boat) in south-west Germany funded by Baden-Württemberg-Stiftung was used. The initial sample size was 1943 (50,2% boys) first and second grade children, but due to missing data only 1437 subjects (50.6% boys) 7.1 ± 0.6 years of age were entered in the analysis. Children’s bodyweight and height was measured by trained technicians and BMI was calculated and converted to BMI percentiles (BMIPCT). Parent questionnaires were used to determine parental sports participation and children’s PA. Three parental activity groups were created (both sportily active, one parent sportily active, both inactive). ANCOVA, controlling for age and sex was used to examine differences in children’s PA and BMIPCT.

Results On average children reached the 60 min of MVPA on 2.8 ± 1.7 days a week. Boys spent significantly more days with 60 minutes MVPA than girls. 44.1% of parents reported both being active, 28.3% both being inactive and 27.7% reported that one parent is active. Children of active parents displayed significantly lower BMIPCT compared their peers with one or both inactive parents. There was, however, no significant difference between the parental activity groups in children’s PA.

Conclusion Reported activity levels are in line with previous research. Children whose parents were both active displayed lower BMIPCT however no difference in PA was found. One reason for this result could be that active parents may be more conscious about the activity level of their children and, therefore, their reports were more accurate. It is, however, also possible that children at this age are inherently active and do not require additional support from their parents. The difference in body composition could then be due to an overall healthier lifestyle of active parents. Even if PA does not differ, a healthier diet may lead to a healthier body composition. Overall more research is needed to enhance the understanding of parental influence on children’s PA and body composition.

References Troiano RP et al (2008). Physical activity in the United States measured by accelerometer. MSSE. 2008;40:181-188.