Active parents can, by their example, encourage their children to be physically active. But the effect is less than widely thought, according to a study of more than five thousand 10- and 11-year-olds.
The study's findings touch on strategies for reducing diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, which are reaching epidemic proportions in many parts of the world. A couch-potato lifestyle is considered to be one of the main contributors.
How the study was conducted
A team of British and US researchers led by Calum Mattocks of the University of Bristol monitored 4 451 children for at least 10 hours a day over three days, tracking the intensity and frequency of their exercise with accelerometers attached to their ankles.
The children were also asked to record any time they swam or rode bicycles, as the devices don't monitor these activities accurately.
The researchers then compared the results against statements provided by the parents on their level of physical activity in several categories.
These included maternal walking or swimming during pregnancy, parental exercise when the child was 21 months old, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and parental smoking at an early age.
Smoking tied to more activity
Surprisingly, children of smoking parents tended to be slightly more physically active than children whose parents were non-smokers.
"Few of the early-life factors were associated with later physical activity in 10- to 11-year-olds, and for those that were, the association was modest," researchers report in the British journal The Lancet.
But even the scarcity of links is important, the researchers said.
According to them, it can help health officials provide guidelines to parents that emphasise the factors - however few - that are known to work. – (Sapa, November 2007)
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