Child activity levels correlate with mothers’ activity levels

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1. Mother and child activity levels were positively correlated across all levels of activity, including sedentary, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

2. Maternal age leaving school, working full-time, and the number and age of children at home were all negatively associated with maternal activity levels.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: Parental activity level has been shown to correlate with activity levels of young children.  This study evaluated the physical activity of mothers enrolled in a population-based prospective cohort study in the United Kingdom (UK), the Southampton Women’s Study, in order to better characterize environmental factors leading to child activity levels. The study used accelerometers to objectively measure time-stamped physical activity of both mothers and their 4-year old children (n=554). Mother and child’s activity levels were recorded for 7 days and matched for day and time of recording.  The authors found a statistically-significant, positive correlation between maternal activity and child activity that did not differ by age of mother. This association was noted for overall daily activity level, as well as for periods of activity throughout the day. An evaluation of maternal characteristics demonstrated that working full-time and a higher BMI were associated with more maternal sedentary time. This study identifies demographic characteristics that may be associated with child activity level and provides targets for intervention that include maternal/child co-participation; however, the study may be impacted by self-selection into the study group.

Click to read the study published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Daily physical activity in young children and their parents 

In-Depth [prospective cohort study]: This study recruited mother and four-year-old child pairs from the Southampton Women’s Study, a prospective cohort study in the UK. The 7-day activity level of both mother and child were recorded using accelerometers. A statistically significant, positive correlation was found between mother and child activity across all activity intensities, including sedentary time, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. In addition, interaction effects were found between the child’s weight status and attending preschool and his/her activity level. Physical activity was also affected by the time of the week, with light physical activity associated with the weekend, while moderate-to-vigorous activity was associated with the weekdays. Correlates of maternal activity levels were also investigated. Increased BMI and working full-time were negatively associated with activity. In addition, maternal duration of schooling negatively correlated with sedentary time. Having more than one young child at home was positively associated with mother’s light physical activity level.

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