An analysis of the physical activity levels of more than 500 mothers and pre-schoolers assessed using activity monitors to produce accurate data, found that the amount of activity that a mother and her child did each day was closely related. (Agencies)
The research led by Kathryn Hesketh and overseen by Dr Esther van Sluijs from the University of Cambridge is first to show a direct association in a large sample of mothers and children, both fitted with activity monitors at the same time.
It shows that young children are not 'just naturally active' and that parents have an important role to play in the development of healthy activity habits early on in life.
The data from mother and child were matched up to see if and how the activity patterns of adults and children correlated.
"We saw a direct, positive association between physical activity in children and their 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," said Hesketh.
For every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity a mother engaged in, her child was more likely to engage in 10 per cent more of the same level of activity.
If a mother was one hour less sedentary per day, her child may have spent 10 minutes less sedentary per day, said Hesketh.
"Such small minute-by-minute differences may therefore represent a non-trivial amount of activity over the course of a week, month and year," said Hesketh.
The direct positive association between mothers and their four-year-old children was apparent for overall daily activity levels and activity segmented over the day (morning, afternoon and evening).
The study was published in journal Pediatrics.
An analysis of the physical activity levels of more than 500 mothers and pre-schoolers assessed using activity monitors to produce accurate data, found that the amount of activity that a mother and her child did each day was closely related.