For every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity that a mother engaged in, her child was more likely to engage in 10 per cent more of the same activity. So for every hour a mum spends being active per day her child will spend an additional 10 minutes being active per day.
Over the course of a month or year these small differences could be significant.
Researchers from the UK’s Cambridge and Southampton Universities monitored the heart rates of 500 mothers over a week.
The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that many mothers’ exercise levels were way below those recommended.
The study’s authors believe that their research gives support to the claim that campaigns to get kids more active should be aimed at mothers.
Participants, 554 mothers and their four-year-olds, wore lightweight heart-rate monitors and accelerometers on their chests for seven days continuous – even whilst sleeping and partaking in water-based activities.
The research showed a direct ‘positive association’ between physical activity in both children and mothers.
“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,” Kathryn Hesketh, one of the study’s leaders told reporters.
Of course there were a number of factors that affected a mother’s average activity levels; including whether the mother worked or not and whether there were siblings or not.
Interestingly, the link between mothers and children’s active levels were stronger for mothers who left school at 16 than those who left at 18.
The researchers also found that for many women, falling levels in activity and exercise often feel when they became mothers and failed to return to previous levels – this could have significant consequences for younger children and siblings.
“There are many competing priorities for new parents and making time to be active may not always be top of the list. However, small increases in maternal activity levels may lead to benefits for mothers and children,” Hesketh argued, adding that simply walking and moving more each day can be all it takes to create these benefits.
Do you agree with the study’s results? Did your activity and exercise levels fall when you became a mother? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.