How physical activity gets passed down through the generations

Despite our best efforts to encourage Canadians to move more, activity levels throughout people’s lives remain stubbornly consistent. That is, active children tend to become active adults and active adults tend to become active older adults.

It’s also true that active adults tend to raise more active children. So, you can see how a cycle of activity can easily develop that gets passed down from generation to generation. 

Unfortunately, the same is true of inactivity, and right now, we’re caught in a cycle of inactivity. Inactive and sedentary adults are raising inactive and sedentary children. And in turn, those children are growing into inactive adults.

This makes a couple things clear:

1. We have to start early—the best time to break the cycle is at the beginning, before inactivity sets in.

2. Parents need to be active role models for their children—kids’ attitudes, values, and beliefs regarding physical activity are shaped by their parents. If you value physical activity, so will your children. If you have active habits, they’ll form good habits too. This is a simplification, of course, but is broadly true.

Yet, understandably, being an active role model is easier said than done. That’s why the cycle is a cycle after all.

Here’s a fact that might wake you up: due to increases in obesity rates and sedentary behaviours, the youth of today will be one of the first generations that might not outlive their parents. Something needs to be done urgently to ensure that kids get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need every day to lead happy and healthy lives.


So, you may be asking yourself: what can I do to help fix this problem? Below are some tips to help you become a positive physical activity role model for your children.

  • Talk to your children about the benefits of physical activity
  • Limit screen-use and excessive sitting at home
  • Support your children’s interest and efforts in physical activity and sport
  • Encourage and advocate for physical activity opportunities in schools
  • Encourage active outdoor play
  • Accompany your children on their walks to and from school
  • Find an activity that you and your children can both participate in together
  • Emphasize and reinforce that physical activity is fun
  • Let them see you being active and enjoying what you’re doing

ParticipACTION and the Government of Newfoundland are working together, with support from Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador, to inspire families to make physical activity a higher priority in daily life.