The most important thing parents can do to get their kids to move more

Sometimes it can feel like parents need to remember to do a million things to make sure their kids are happy and healthy. There are so many tips, so many little things that seem to matter, that trying to do them all can be a bit overwhelming.

Luckily, there’s good news from Statistics Canada. A recent report highlights that when it comes to getting your kids to move enough every day, there’s actually ONE thing parents can do to have a huge impact.

THE ONE THING

Move more yourself! Be an active role model!

New findings from the Canadian Health Measures Survey – an ongoing survey that collects health data on Canadians 3 to 79 years old – confirms that how much parents move plays a key role in determining how much their children move.

For the first time ever, this study directly measured the influence of parents’ physical activity and sedentary behaviours on those of their children. It was found that for every 20-minute increase in a parent’s activity levels, a kid’s activity rose by 5 to 10 minutes. Similarly, pedometer data revealed that for every 1,000 steps that a parent walked a day, their child walked 200 to 350 additional steps.

Parents’ sedentary levels (which included watching television, playing video games and surfing the net) were also related to their children’s. Specifically, for every hour a parent spent being sedentary, an 8- to 15-minute increase in their children’s sedentary time was reported.

HOW TO DO THE ONE THING

While in many ways this study confirms that raising active children is simple, it’s by no means easy. Most Canadians struggle to move enough every day, especially busy parents.

But this study also confirms just how important it is to place more emphasis on physical activity – every day.

Living an active life should be a core value of every family. Talk to your kids about the importance of being active and limiting excessive sitting and screen-viewing. Encourage regular active play, particularly outdoors. When kids get outside they take more steps, play for longer, and sit less often.

Participate in activities with them. Let them see you being active, and the joy it adds to your life. As with many life lessons, show them, don’t tell them.

Summer is here, and as Canadians, we are fortunate to be surrounded by nature, tons of green space, numerous trails, and hundreds of bodies of water. There is no better time than now to embrace the outdoors.

Rather than watching a movie together at night, why not plan regular outings to walk or bike? Be active as a family. Physical activity is more than just sports – it can include a variety of structured and unstructured activities. Help build children’s confidence and physical literacy by encouraging and praising them for being active. Try completing some activities off the 150 Play List together. 

Take the steps to lead a more active life yourself and your kids will too. They love to follow the leader.