January is National Family Fit Lifestyle Month! This is a unique time to understand the significance of the family dynamic in the development of children’s’ attitudes toward fitness. Parents have the unique relationship with their children to model, influence, and encourage lifestyle choices. Indeed, parents’ attitudes toward fitness are predictors of their children’s attitudes. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, (Brustad, 2010, p. 4), “children of two ‘active’ parents were 5.8 times more likely to be ‘active’ than were children of two ‘inactive’ parents.” The key element in parental influence is their enjoyment of physical activity. Parents who model intrinsic values of fitness tend to instill these values in their children.
Time, distance, cost, and purpose eclipse fitness orientation. Reduced recess time, lengthened school days, and after-school day care limit unstructured play. Commuter society often places parks outside of safe walking distances from many neighborhoods. Organized sports programs (often) are costly, preventing children from participating. Competitive sports leagues necessarily limit the number of participants; they are not designed for inclusivity or casual play. Video games and entertainment often become the panacea for adolescent free-time.
Given these and other factors, parents with affinity for fitness, or at least choose to pursue fitness, provide the most effective means to developing fitness in their children. Simple activities such as riding bicycles, walking the dog, doing yard work together, and going to the park create fun exercise opportunities for the family. More information is available at www.fitness.gov.
Brustad, R. (2010, March). Council Resources, PCFSN Research Digest, March 2010: The Role of Family in Promoting Physical Activity . Retrieved from President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition: https://www.presidentschallenge.org/informed/digest/docs/march2010digest.pdf