Lead by Example
by Rae Pica
There’s no doubt about it. If you want to prepare your child for a lifetime of physical activity, it has to start now, while your child is very young. And the most important thing you can do toward that goal is to lead the way by being a role model. As confirmed by research, your influence is considerable. Sometimes it will take the form of words, other times action. But in either case you’ve got to keep it positive!
For example, research has shown that parents’ inactivity may exert more influence on their children’s behavior than being active does. That is, if your child sees you sitting in front of the TV during all your free time – if he never sees you exercising or enjoying yourself as you do something physical – your actions (in this case inactions) will speak volumes. He’ll simply follow suit. Even if you tell him how important it is to be physically active, he’ll have no reason to believe you. (Similarly, children who watch their parents smoke while delivering a lecture on the dangers of tobacco won’t receive the message their parents intended.)
A Penn State study demonstrated that children do indeed follow the example their parents set for them. Their research, conducted over two years, established that 79% of the girls who became overweight from ages five to seven, with or without a genetic predisposition to obesity, were from sedentary families.
On the other hand, an article in the Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that children with active mothers were twice as likely to be active as children with inactive mothers. Children with active fathers are three and a half times more likely to be active than children with inactive fathers. And when both parents are active, their children are six times more likely to be active!