Abstract

Background

Parents influence the physical activity and sedentary behaviour of their children. This analysis examines associations between parental role modeling and support and children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Data and methods

The sample consists of 1,328 biological parent-child pairs from the first three cycles of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2007 through 2013). Data on physical activity and sedentary behaviour were collected using a questionnaire and by accelerometer. Pearson correlation and linear regression analyses were completed to examine associations between parents’ and children’s measured physical activity and sedentary time and reported screen-based activities. Analyses were adjusted for variables indicating parental support and household lifestyle characteristics.

Results

Accelerometer-measured physical activity and sedentary time were correlated in all parent-child pairs. Parents’ measured moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was associated with children’s MVPA (ß = 0.28, p < 0.001). For every 20-minute increase in a parent’s MVPA, the child’s MVPA increased by 5 to 10 minutes. Parents’ measured sedentary time was associated with that of their daughters on weekends, and with that of their sons during the after-school period. Parents’ reported screen time was associated with that of their daughters.

Interpretation

This study confirms parents’ influence on their children’s physical activity. Parental role modeling and support have independent effects on a child’s level of physical activity.

Keywords

Accelerometer, exercise health measurement, motor activity, movement, parental support, physical fitness, public health, screen time

Findings

Insufficient physical activity and excessive sedentary time, particularly screen time, are negatively associated with a variety of physical and mental health indicators in children. Fewer than 10% of Canadian children meet the current guideline of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day. [Full Text]

Authors

Didier Garriguet (didier.garriguet@canada.ca), Rachel Colley and Tracey Bushnik are with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • Insufficient physical activity and excessive sedentary time are negatively associated with a range of physical and mental health indicators in children
  • Parents influence their children’s physical activity through role modeling (being active themselves), material support (financial, logistic, co-participation), and encouragement.
  • Fewer than 10% of Canadian children meet the current guideline of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, and only 15% of Canadian adults meet the current guideline of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week.
  • Research on associations between parents’ and children’s physical activity and sedentary time yields mixed results; evidence of the importance of parental support and encouragement is more consistently positive.

What does this study add?

  • Associations between accelerometer-measured and reported parents’ and children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour were examined in a sample of 1,328 biological parent-child pairs from the 2007 to 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey.
  • Parents’ measured moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was associated with that of their children.
  • Parents’ measured sedentary time was associated with that of their daughters on weekends, and with that of their sons during the after-school period.
  • Parents’ reported screen time was associated only with that of their daughters.
  • Parental role modeling and support had independent effects on children’s physical activity.

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