Parental Activity as Influence on Children`s BMI Percentiles and Physical Activity

J Sports Sci Med. 2014 Sep 1;13(3):645-50. eCollection 2014 Sep.


Parents play a crucial role in the development of their children's lifestyle and health behaviour. This study aims to examine associations between parental physical activity (PA) and children's BMI percentiles (BMIPCT), moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) as well as participation in organised sports. Height and body weight was measured in 1615 in German children (7.1 ± 0.6 years, 50.3% male) and converted to BMIPCT. Parental BMI was calculated based on self-reported height and body weight. Children's MVPA and sports participation as well as parental PA were assessed via parental questionnaire. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), controlling for age and family income was used to examine the association between parental and children's PA levels as well as BMIPCT. 39.7% of the parents classified themselves as physically active and 8.3% of children were classified as overweight or obese. Lower BMIPCT were observed with both parents being physically active (44.5 ± 26.3 vs. 50.2 ± 26.9 and 52.0 ± 28.4, respectively). There was no association between parental and children's PA levels but children with at least one active parent displayed a higher participation in organised sports (102.0 ± 96.6 and 117.7 ± 123.6 vs. 73.7 ± 100.0, respectively). Children of active parents were less likely to be overweight and obese. The lack of association between subjectively assessed parental PA and child MVPA suggests that parental support for PA in children is more important than parents being a role model. More active parents, however, may be more likely to facilitate participation in organised sports. These results underline the importance of the inclusion of parents in health promotion and obesity prevention programmes in children. Key pointsA higher prevalence of overweight or obese children was found with inactive parents.Children's BMI percentiles were lower if both parents were physically active compared to children whose parents were both inactive or only had one physically active parent.Parental activity had no influence on daily time spent at MVPA and time spent in non-organised sports.There was a significant association between parental physical activity and the number of minutes per week boys and girls participated in organised sports.On average, children who had at least one physically active parent spent significantly more time participating in organised sports than children with inactive parents.

Keywords: Health and exercise; effects on body weight; health promotion.