Research makes a move on kids' activity levels

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Research makes a move on kids' activity levels


Published on 25 July 2012

25 July 2012

Do physically active parents rear physically active children? Why are some children motivated to exercise even though their parents lead a sedentary lifestyle? And do socio-economic factors influence the amount of sport children play?

The answers to these questions are likely to be revealed by a University of the Sunshine Coast student who is investigating how parents influence their children’s activity levels.

USC Honours Psychology student Jennifer Bowers is conducting the study titled “Parental influence on children’s physical activity toward health promotion and obesity prevention”.

Ms Bowers said the research would examine what factors affect a child’s involvement in exercise, sport and other recreational activities. Parents of primary school children aged 5-12 years are invited to participate in an online survey.

“We are trying to establish if children model their behaviour on their parents with regard to activity levels – whether children are inclined to be active if their parents are active,” she said.

“I’d also like to know if the parents are not active, but encourage and support their children to take part in sport and other recreational events, if this enough to make a difference.”

Ms Bowers said the research findings could be used to develop educational programs that encourage parents to involve their children in physical activity.

“The National Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that children should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily,” she said.

“While there are many intervention programs through schools aimed at physical activity for kids, there are fewer education programs available for parents.”

USC Lecturer in Psychology Dr Rachael Sharman, who is supervising Ms Bowers’ research, said the study would also consider the indirect factors that impact on a child’s activity levels.

“Parental support – or lack of support – can be influenced by socio-economic factors,” she said. “There may be parents who are willing and motivated but cannot afford to pay for sporting club costs or the cost of fuel to drive their children to training.

“Other aspects like a parent’s perception of neighbourhood safety may also have an influence. For example, they may not want their children hanging out at the local skate park for example, or riding their bikes with friends for fear they may be harmed.”

To participate in the survey go to:

— Michelle Widdicombe

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