A recent study out of Germany published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that having parents who are physically active does not influence teen fitness levels. The results suggest that teens may not regard their parents as role models for fitness.
The researcher in me knows that this was a scientific study, but the human in me cannot even remotely believe it. How could it be possible that physically active parents are not role models for their children?
Physically active parents are more likely to discuss their activity or activities of choice; their progress or why it invigorates them. Physically active parents are more likely to encourage their families to join in their activities or to be physically active themselves. Physically active parents are more likely to be knowledgeable about fitness and health-related topics. All of that seems like simple common sense.
So how is it possible that parents’ levels of physical activities do not influence teens’ fitness levels?
Perhaps it has to do with the notion that when children are younger they tend to participate in more organized sports, sometimes even multiple sports. Participation in physical activity declines as young people age.
The Nike Designed to Move report confirms that parents to have a positive effect on kids’ physical activity when they are younger. In fact, preschoolers with active mothers or fathers are 2-to-3.5 times as likely to be active than children with inactive parents. And when children have two active parents, they are 5.8 times more likely to be active themselves.
For the first time in history, children today are projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and experts say the cause of the decline is physical inactivity. Additionally, the Nike report states that physically inactive kids are less healthy, miss more days of school, have lower academic achievement, are less likely to go to college, and have decreased earnings potential in adulthood.
So whether our own personal activity levels encourage our kids to be physically active or not, the bottom line is that we have to figure out what will encourage our kids to be physically active from childhood through adulthood. Encouraging them to be physically active throughout their lives may just be one of the most important things we can do for our children.