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Mother’s Activity Level Affects Her Child’s Physical Activity

Young children are not just naturally active, according to a recent study, and parents have a role to play in the development of healthy activity habits early on in life.

Research on data obtained at the University College London from 554 women and their four-year-old children shows a “direct, positive association between physical activity in children and their mothers; the more activity a mother did, the more active is her child,”says Kathryn Hesketh, one of the university study’s lead authors and research associate, to Times of India.

For every one minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity a mother engaged in, her child was more likely to engage in about 10 percent more than the level of activity.

The research, published in Pediatrics, also found that 53 percent of mothers participated in just 30 minutes of ‘moderate-to-vigorous’ physical activity a week, well below the recommended guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of such physical activity a week.

The participants wore Actiheart monitoring devices that tracked their movements through the day for about a week, for a accumulation of 15 hours of data. The results showed that children spent about one-third of that time, sitting or standing still. Eight hours were spent in light physical activity such as walking; and only an hour of moderate to vigorous activity.

On the other hand, the mothers only had an hour of standing still or sitting, and light activity and moderate to vigorous activity was divided evenly. The more active mothers had more physically active children.

“It’s a positive thing that maternal physical activity levels can influence the activity level of their child,” ┬áHesketh told Reuters Health. “If more time is spent moving, then activity can increase in both.”

There were other factors that suggested influence — although not as strong — such as school interactions, weight, and mother’s education.

The study suggests that policies to improve children’s health should take into consideration the whole family and in particular, the mothers.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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