Do you want to have a physically active child? Be an active mother!

Young children are not ‘just naturally active’. The parents, and especially the mothers, have strong influence on the activity levels of the children.

active children


A new study from the University of Cambridge suggests that, when it comes to levels of physical activity of a child, “it is the mother who sets the pace”. The study analysed the physical activity levels of 554 mothers and their pre-schoolers. The data was gathered using activity monitors (Actiheart) for both mothers and children. These devices were continuously worn by each participant in the study. Using them, researchers managed to match hour for hour maternal-child activity levels.

A direct, positive association between physical activity in children and their mothers was observed: the more activity a mother did, the more active was her child. “For every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity a mother engaged in, her child was more likely to engage in 10% more of the same level of activity. If a mother was one hour less sedentary per day, her child may have spent 10 minutes less sedentary per day. Such small minute-by-minute differences may therefore represent a non-trivial amount of activity over the course of a week, month and year.” (Prof. Kathryn Hesketh, leader of the study). The study took into consideration how demographic and time factors (child’s weight, time spent at preschool, maternal education; the time of day and week; whether the child had siblings; whether his or her father was present at home) influence the activity levels of mothers and children.

Overall, the research revealed strikingly low maternal activity levels: only 53% of mothers engaged in 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least once a week.  It looks that, most of the times, making time to be active is not a top priority for mothers. But it is a certain thing that even small increases in maternal activity levels lead to health benefits for both the mothers and the children.

How can you and your child become more physically active?

10 ideas:

  1. Walk to and from kindergarten with the kids as often as possible.
  2. Go roller or ice skating, roller blading or skateboarding (together).
  3. Support your kids in sports, clubs or any other activities that may interest them. Join a sport club together.
  4. Plan something active to do with your child every weekend: a walk in the park, in the forest, a football game, trampolining, swimming etc.
  5. Provide active toys. Young children need easy access to balls, racquets, jump ropes, hula hoops, and other active toys.
  6. Turn off the TV and the computer. For small children 1 hour of TV and computer games each day is enough.
  7. Involve your child in tidying the house activities.
  8. Dance with your child.
  9. Play with your child. Any kind of game.
  10. Organize play dates for your children.

Keep in mind that you are the role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.


Read more:

  • Kathryn R. Hesketh, Laura Goodfellow, Ulf Ekelund, Alison M. Mcminn, Keith M. Godfrey, Hazel M. Inskip, Cyrus Cooper, Nicholas C. Harvey, Esther M.f. Van Sluijs. Activity Levels in Mothers and Their Preschool Children. Pediatrics, March 2014 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-3153
  • photo:

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