BMC Public Health. 2013;13:1132
BACKGROUND: Parental influences are essential to the behaviours and physical activity of their children. Our study aimed to determine if parental beliefs and support are associated with children's pedometer measured physical activity levels on school days and weekend days.
METHODS: In the spring of 2009 and 2011, we analyzed cross-sectional data from 1,355 grade five students and parents in 30 schools in Alberta, Canada. Parents reported how much they care about exercising, how much they encourage their child to be physically active, and how frequently they engage in physical activities with their child. Physical activity was assessed from step counts obtained from time-stamped pedometers collected over nine consecutive days.
RESULTS: Increased parental encouragement was positively associated with boys' and girls' physical activity on school days (Boys: beta = 1373, 95% CI: 606, 2139; Girls: beta = 632, 95% CI: 108, 1155) and girls' physical activity on weekend days (beta = 997, 95% CI: 130, 1864). Increased parental care was positively associated with boys' physical activity on weekend days (beta = 1381, 95% CI: 85, 2676). Increased parental support and engagement was associated with an additional 632-1381 steps/day for children in this study.
CONCLUSIONS: Parental care, encouragement and engagement are associated with physical activity levels of children 10-11 years of age. Policy makers and researchers should consider the importance of targeting parents when designing strategies to promote physical activity in children. This is particularly relevant to weekends and holidays when children's activity levels are low.