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Activity Levels Connected Between Mother and Child

Update Date: Mar 24, 2014 09:35 AM EDT

Children often develop similar behaviors and opinions as their parents. According to a new study, the amount of activity mothers get is related to the amount of activity their children get. This study's findings suggest that mothers can greatly shape their children's future lifestyle.

"It's a positive thing that maternal physical activity levels can influence the activity level of their child," Kathryn Hesketh, from the Institute of Child Health at University College London, said reported by Reuters Health. "If more time is spent moving, then activity can increase in both."

Hesketh worked on the study at the University of Cambridge with fellow colleagues. Together, the team recruited 554 four-year-old children. The children and their mothers took part in the UK Southampton Women's Survey. The researchers examined the mothers and children's activity levels with heart rate tracking devices and accelerometers that monitored when they were active versus when they were sedentary for about 14 to 15 hours a day over the span of one week.

The researchers found that in the children's group, they stood still or sat for roughly five hours a day. The children spent a total of nine hours being active, with one of those hours spent on moderate-to-vigorous activity. For the adult group, the researchers calculated that mothers spent around one hour standing still or sitting. The mothers spent seven hours on light physical activity and another seven on moderate-to-vigorous activity.

"The more activity a mother did, the more active her child. Although it is not possible to tell from this study whether active children were making their mothers run around after them, it is likely that activity in one of the pair influences activity in the other," Hesketh said according to BBC News.

The team calculated that when a mother spends an extra hour being active, her child's activity level increases by 10 minutes per day. This relationship was greatly affected by the mother's education level, the child's weight, the amount of time the child spent at school, and the time of day and week. The researchers concluded that the study's findings could help programs and initiatives develop new ways of combatting obesity.

The study, "Activity Levels in Mothers and Their Preschool Children," was published in Pediatrics.

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