How to get your kids moving

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Researchers from National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo., followed 83 families who had signed up for a family intervention program aimed at preventing excessive weight gain in overweight kids, ages 7 to 14. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

One of my summertime goals was to take more walks in our woodsy neighborhood with my daughter. We both need the exercise; walking together also gives us a chance to connect, relax and talk about things that we might not get to when things are busy at home. It’s working! So I was happy to read about a brand-new study finding that, indeed, kids are more active when their parents are.

Researchers from National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo., followed 83 families who had signed up for a family intervention program aimed at preventing excessive weight gain in overweight kids, ages 7 to 14. Families received pedometers and were asked to increase their daily step counts by about 2,000 - roughly a mile. The results:

  • On days when mothers reached or exceeded their 2,000-step goal, children took an average of 2,117 additional steps.
  • On days when moms didn’t hit their goals, kids got about 1,000 fewer steps.
  • The activity levels of fathers had a similar effect.
  • Kids and parents both increased their step counts on weekends, when families had more time to have active fun together.
  • Yesterday’s steps didn’t help today’s totals. A parent’s higher activity level one day didn’t translate into a lot of extra steps for kids the next day. It’s an of-the-moment kind of thing.

"It has long been known that parent and child activity levels are correlated," said lead researcher Kristen Holm, Ph.D. "This is the first intervention-based study to prospectively demonstrate that when parents increase their activity, children increase theirs as well. The effect was more pronounced on weekends."

In other words, if you move, they will, too. 

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