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Active parents have more active kids: study

A father and son play
A father and son play soccer on the beach. PA Photos Limited

The more active a parent is, the more likely their child will be active too, according to a new study by Statistics Canada.

The study found that for every extra 20 minutes of physical activity for the parent, their child’s activity level rose by five to 10 minutes.

“The parents’ behaviour has an effect or has an association with the child’s behaviour,” said Didier Garriguet, principal researcher at Statistics Canada and an author of this study.

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The study measured 1,328 parent-child pairs, getting them to complete a questionnaire, to wear an accelerometer to measure their activity levels and complete a medical examination.

On average, the children in the study had about 60 minutes of medium-to-vigorous activity a day. Having an active parent meant bonus activity for the child.

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Researchers also found that the reverse is true. Sedentary parents tend to have more sedentary children. “However the strength of the association is not as strong. So for every hour of sedentary time, we’re talking about eight to 15 minutes’ increase for the child’s sedentary time,” said Garriguet.

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Another Statistics Canada study released Wednesday found that there was also a parent-child relationship when it came to weight. Children’s body mass index had “a significant, positive linear relationship with their parent’s BMI,” reads the study, and children with an obese parent were at greater risk of being overweight or obese themselves.

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Although Garriguet cautions that the relationship between parents’ and children’s activity levels is an association and not a causation – improving your personal activity level won’t necessarily make your kid more active – he thinks it might be a good idea anyway.

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“We see the association so there’s nothing wrong with encouraging these good behaviours either from the parent perspective or from a public policy perspective.”