Active parents have active children
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A new study shows that parents who are active during pregnancy and early in their child's life tend to have more active children, ScienceDaily reports.
Some risk factors for adult diseases are associated with low levels of physical activity in children. There are also connections between the factors of the first part of life (from birth to age 5) and childhood obesity.
But there is very little data on the influence of the first part of life on the physical activity of children. Therefore, the researchers included in the study children between the ages of 11 and 12 who were asked to wear an accelerometer for 7 days, recording minute by minute the intensity and frequency of physical activity.
Valid data were collected from 5,451 children and were analyzed in contrast to different factors that are supposed to affect physical activity.
Several factors showed little association with physical activity later in life. These include the activity of the mother during pregnancy (especially walking and swimming), the period of birth, the physical activity of one or both parents when the child was 21 months old and an older brother.
The authors of the study explain that the association with the activity of the mother during pregnancy is unlikely to be due to the biological factors in the womb. In contrast, mothers who are physically active during pregnancy will most likely be active after pregnancy and this will influence their children's physical activity.
They add that the association with the birth period is difficult to explain, but it could be related to the age at which the child begins to go to school.
Smoking in both mother and father was a positive association with physical activity. Researchers say this is surprising because smoking during pregnancy leads to childhood obesity.
The authors of the study claim that they showed that the factors in the first part of life have a limited influence on physical activity later in life, around the age of 11-12 years, but that these children are slightly more active if their parents are kept active in the first part of the child's life.
Therefore, if parents are helped to increase their physical activity, they can thus promote an active lifestyle of their child.
The researchers recommend that future studies examine these associations in late adolescence when physical activity decreases, especially in girls.
December 12, 2007