Walk the walk
There’s a pretty widespread belief out there that that we need bike tracks, parks and playgrounds to encourage people to exercise. That it’s the physical environment that encourages healthy behaviour. Not so says Johannes Brug, professor of epidemiology at VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam. His review of 50 studies published in the journal Obesity Reviews found absolutely no association between aesthetics, weather and geographical influences such as beaches and bushwalks on levels of physical activity. It also found only a limited association between the availability, accessibility and convenience of recreational facilities and exercise. What works? Well, according to Brug parents setting an example of playing and exercising with friends are more likely to get people up and moving than the availability and convenience of recreational facilities.
It’s no surprise to learn that when parents get active, so do their kids. A number of studies have already shown that we learn our physical activity habits from our family. Researchers in France found that teens were twice as likely to take part in structured physical activities outside school when both parents played a sport. They also found that teenage boys were twice as likely to be highly inactive if both parents watched TV for more than 2 hours a day!
So what should you give the kids this Christmas? Well before you head off to the sports store for a baseball mitt or a basket ball hoop, how about a written promise to reserve at least one day each weekend dedicated to fun, family fitness stuff – things the whole family can enjoy together. Here are some ideas for starters: a bike ride, a hike or bush walk, tip or tag footie, a game of tennis or table tennis, swimming at the local beach or pool.
Please post your comments on what’s worked getting you and your family more active (and having fun) right here. Remember, active kids stay active for life. For more information, check out the OWL website.
Dr David Ludwig
– Dr David Ludwig is Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight