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Exercise as it relates to Disease/Fit mums’ and dads’, their role in encouraging children to stay active from an early age

What Is The Background To This Research?Edit

Childhood obesity prevalence has been steadily growing in the last two decades, which is in part due to and increase in physical inactivity levels among children between the ages of 5-15.[1] Recent studies have investigated the correlation between childhood inactivity to childhood obesity and the risk of leading to adulthood obesity.[2] Among all confounding variables that may contribute to the prevalence of childhood obesity, this text aimed to investigate whether parental exercise habits impacted the likelihood of increasing physical activity (PA) participation in children aged 7–15.[3] In 2000, participation of extracurricular sports participation had decreased to 71% of boys and 58% of girls participating in at least one form of exercise.[3] During this period, while PA has reduced in children, overweight prevalence and obesity has increased.[4] Parents play a major role in the development of habits and characteristics formed in children at a young age. This is no exception when it comes to role modeling habitual exercise into their lifestyle at a young age. The Australian Council for Health and Physical Education Research's Australian Schools Health and Fitness Survey (ASHFS), conducted in 1985, was the largest population-based study of children in Australia with extensive health and fitness measures and a high response rate.[3] Despite few research studies which have been conducted , the evidence for parental influence on exercise participation is vague and scarce, hence this review aims to investigate the correlation between parents and their children's PA participation.

Where Is The Research From?Edit

The research for this cross-sectional study is derived from the article titled ‘Parental exercise is associated with Australian children’s extracurricular sports participation and cardiovascular fitness’ published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2005. These findings have been supported by other relating articles mentioned in this text that investigate the correlation between parental physical activity role-modeling on children.

What Kind Of Research Was This?Edit

The research was based on data extracted from a National representative large sample population conducted on Australian schoolchildren, as part of the Australian Schools health and Fitness survey (ASHFS).

What Did The Research Involve?Edit

Subjects In 1985 a Nation wide survey was conducted in all Australian schools, the ASHFS survey was represented a sample size of 8,483 children between the ages of 7-15. The sample was then split into two stages of samples, the first being the assortment of schools involved, the second being a simple random sampling within each of age and sex category from each of the schools. Informed consent was only received from 77.5% of samples, which reduced sample size. Furthermore only children between the ages of 9-15 were included in the survey about their extracurricular sports participation and their parents' exercise since it was believed that children aged 7–8 would not be able to provide reliable information.

Method The children who participated in the ASHFS survey were asked to report their parents’ Physical activity levels. They were asked to describe the level of involvement of each parent, i.e. ‘does your mother / father exercise regularly (2 or more times a week)?' They had the selection of options to choose between jogging, playing sport, doing exercises, going to a gym and doing aerobics. The researchers then divided the responses into ‘mother only’, ‘father only’ and ‘both active parents.’ If the child responded with yes for one parent, and ‘no’, ‘I don’t know’ or didn’t have a response for the other parent, that parent was categorized as ‘mother active only’ or ‘father active only’. Any children who reported ‘I don’t know’ for both parents or had missing data, were deemed incomplete and excluded from the final analysis. As well as reporting their parents’ physical activity status, the children involved in the survey were also asked to list all the sports they had participated themselves through either organized teams, group, club or school. The third part of the investigation included the children in two short cardiorespiratory fitness tests. A timed run / walk was conducted to assess their own cardiorespiratory fitness, to be used to measure correlation between children’s fitness and their parents. The run / walk was timed over a distance of 1.6 km. Children aged 9,12 or 15 years old participated in the Physical Work Capacity (PWC170) test on a monarch cycle.

What Were The Basic Results?Edit

Commonalities in all the articles investigated in this text provide evidence to support the correlation between parental participation in regular exercise / physical activity and childhood participation in physical activity. Although the degree of this correlation is small, it shows a positive association between parental PA habits and their children’s PA habits and participation.

How Did The Researchers Interpret The Results?Edit

The researchers compiled all the surveys and compared the sample characteristics between boys and girls. To investigate and determine the correlation between parental PA and children’s PA participation, the researchers use linear regression methods. The results were also split into ‘Mother active only’ and ‘Father active only to investigate evidence of various participartion levels depending on the sex of the parent.

They also took into consideration confounding variables such as ‘area-level socioeconomic status’ and ‘school type’, whether that was public, independent or catholic.

What Conclusions Should Be Taken Away From This Research?Edit

The findings gathered from the study suggest that there is a positive correlation with parental exercise habits and the likelihood of childhood participation in sports and various forms of exercise.

What Are The Implications Of This Research?Edit

With more substantial evidence this data can be generalized to the population, but for now the data does not provide a definite answer that can prove the claim that childhood PA is directly influenced by the PA of the parent/s. More data is needed for a ‘strong positive correlation’.


  1. Patrick K, Norman G, Calfas K, Sallis J, Zabinski M, Rupp J, Cella J: Diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors as risk factors for overweight in adolescence. Archives in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2004, 158:385-390
  2. James F. Sallis, Judith J. Prochaska, Wendell C. Taylor: A review of the correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Article from Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and exercise. American College of Sports Medicine 2000, 963-975
  3. a b c Verity Cleland, Alison Venn, Jayne Fryer, Terence Dwyer, Leigh Blizzard. Parental exercise is associated with Australian children’s extracurricular sports participation and cardiorespiratory fitness, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2005. 2:3, 186/1479-5868-2-3
  4. Pedro C. Hallal, Cesar G. Victoria, Mario R. Azevedo, Jonathan C.K. Wells. Adolescent physical activity and health, Article from Journal of Sports Medicine, 2006 (12) 1019-1030