Worried your kids will turn into couch potatoes? Then avoid being one yourself. A study published last month in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health shows that getting more physical activity on a daily basis is likely to encourage your children to increase their own levels of activity, ScienceDaily.com reports.

Researchers studied the progress of 83 families who had enrolled in an intervention based on the America on the Move initiative and meant to prevent excess weight gain in kids between the ages of 7 and 14. The participants’ progress was measured with the use of pedometers, and both kids and their parents (although it should be noted that less than half of the dads participated in the program, while all the moms did) were encouraged to take 2,000 more steps each day than they usually did.

The program, when followed, certainly showed that moms who took the initiative toward a healthier lifestyle had their kids following suit. Researchers found that kids took an average of 2,117 steps on days when moms hit the 2,000-step mark. On days when their moms failed to reach the target, kids only took an average of 1,175 steps. The study also found that regardless of how active parents were initially didn’t affect their kids’ activity levels, but kids who had previously been less active ended up taking more additional steps than previously active kids did. Plus, the effect the parents’ activity levels had on the kids’ spiked on weekends, possibly because these gave families more opportunities to exercise together.

"It has long been known that parent and child activity levels are correlated," Kristen Holm, PhD, study author and associate professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, is quoted as saying. "This is the first intervention-based study to prospectively demonstrate that when parents increase their activity, children increase theirs as well. The effect was more pronounced on weekends."

So take more walks with your kids. Create an exercise plan for the entire family, and make sure there are measurable criteria to encourage family members to cheer each other on and even have a bit of friendly competition.

(Photo by Wirawat Lian-udom via Flickr Creative Commons)

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