Active Parenting Required

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Parents have a vital role to play in setting a good example for active, healthy lifestyles for their children. And parental support is particularly important for girls.

Among health professionals around the globe there is growing concern that most children and adolescents don't take part in enough physical activity, particularly vigorous activity.

The thirteenth biennial report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia's Health 2012, states that children are less physically active and spending more and more hours in sedentary activities such as computer games. This is cause for concern as low levels of physical activity have been linked to higher rates of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers, depression, osteoporosis, and obesity.

New South Wales statistics show that girls have lower levels of physical activity than boys, so any strategy to encourage girls to be more active may prove vital.

One study investigated the different roles parents have in influencing the activity levels of their children, specifically in relation to:

  • Logistical factors such as whether parents enrolled their daughters in sports and went with them to sporting events; and
  • 'Explicit modelling' whereby they assessed whether the parents enjoyed physical activity, how often they participated, whether the family used sport as recreation, and whether the parents' behaviour encouraged activity in their children.

The scientists found that mothers had higher levels of logistic support than fathers, whereas fathers reported higher levels of explicit modelling than mothers. Both methods were associated with higher physical activity among girls.

Girls interviewed reported higher levels of physical activity when at least one parent gave high levels of overall support.

The researchers said their study showed the positive contribution parents can have on the activity practices of their young daughters.

If you adopt healthy eating and exercise habits, your children will get the message. As Australia's Health 2012 recommends, we need to encourage young people to participate in at least an hour of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day. 

Strategies recommended by current Australian guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity include:

  • Encourage children to be active in as many ways as possible, including walking or cycling to school, helping out with housework, playing team sports and games and using local facilities such as parks and pools.
  • Enjoy physical games and activities together as a family, including some moderate and vigorous activities every day.
  • Limit time spent watching television or playing on the computer.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Australia's health 2012. Australia's health no. 13. Cat. no. AUS 156. Canberra: AIHW.

Davison KK, Cutting TM, Birch LL (2003) Parents' activity-related parenting practices predict girls' physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35: 1589-1595.

National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia. Melbourne: National Health and Medical Research Council.

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