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Study: Do fit kids have fit parents?

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Released: 2021-01-20

The fitness of Canadian children is related to that of their parents, and the strength of the relationship varies according to different child-sex and parent-sex combinations. This is one of the main findings from a new study released today in Health Reports. It is the first to use a dataset from the Canadian Health Measures Survey—the child-parent dyad dataset—to examine the association in physical fitness among child-parent pairs.

The study found that measured cardiorespiratory fitness (also known as aerobic fitness), muscular strength and flexibility of children were all positively associated among child-parent pairs. For example, boys whose parent had "excellent" cardiorespiratory fitness had a higher cardiorespiratory fitness level compared with boys whose parent had a "poor" cardiorespiratory fitness level (53 versus 50 ml/kg/min). Similarly, girls whose parent had "excellent" flexibility had higher flexibility when compared with girls whose parent had "poor" flexibility (28 versus 22 cm on the sit-and-reach test). When examined separately by sex of parent and child, cardiorespiratory fitness was significantly associated in mother-son dyads only, grip strength was associated in all dyad types except father-son pairings, and flexibility was associated in mother-son and father-son pairings only.

The physical fitness of Canadian children declined from 1980 to 2007, and then remained relatively stable from 2007 to 2017. High physical fitness is associated with many health benefits and is an important indicator of future health status among children. Fitness, obesity and lifestyle habits all tend to aggregate within families because of common genetics, behaviours and environments.

The family environment is instrumental in shaping the health behaviours and future health status among children. Few large-scale datasets include detailed and objectively measured health data about multiple individuals from the same family who are living in the same household. Therefore the paired respondent records of the CHMS provide unique opportunities to researchers interested in examining health outcomes and behaviours between two members of the same household.

This study is a follow-up to three previous studies (see Note to readers) that used this same dyad dataset to examine physical activity and sedentary behaviour among child-parent pairs.

  Note to readers

The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) is an ongoing cross-sectional survey conducted by Statistics Canada that collects directly measured and self-reported health information from a nationally representative sample of the Canadian household-dwelling population aged 3 to 79. The survey collects data using mobile examination centres that travel to multiple sites across the country. This analysis used measured physical fitness data from three separate cross-sectional cycles of the CHMS: cycle 1 (2007 to 2009), cycle 2 (2009 to 2011) and cycle 5 (2016 to 2017). The dataset included children aged 6 to 11 for whom complete physical fitness and covariate data on one biological parent living in the same household were also available. This type of analysis requires an additional data file that provides the household pairings, in addition to the nature of the relationship between the two respondents living the same household. The CHMS Relationship Files are available to researchers upon request.

The three previous studies that used this same dyad dataset to examine physical activity and sedentary behaviour among child-parent pairs are "Associations between parent and child sedentary behaviour and physical activity in early childhood," "Parent-Child association in physical activity and sedentary behaviour," and "Parent-Child association in body weight status."


The article "Do fit kids have fit parents?" is now available in the January 2021 online issue of Health Reports, Vol. 32, no. 1 (Catalogue number82-003-X).

This issue of Health Reports also contains the article "Characterizing people experiencing homelessness and trends in homelessness using population-level emergency department visit data in Ontario, Canada."

Contact information

To enquire about "Do fit kids have fit parents?" contact Rachel Colley (, Health Analysis Division.

To enquire about "Characterizing people experiencing homelessness and trends in homelessness using population-level emergency department visit data in Ontario, Canada" contact Stephenson Strobel (, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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