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Research Review

Parents’ Endorsement of Sports Increases Children’s Physical Activity

Parents who value strenuous team sports are more likely to influence their children to join a team or at least participate in some kind of exercise, and spend less time in front of the TV or computer, a new study in Health Psychology says.
Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Duke University studied a sample of 681 parents of 433 fourth and fifth graders from 12 schools in Houston. They found that those parents who conveyed the importance of high-intensity team sports to their children had more active children. Both the boys and girls watched less TV and spent less time on their computers. However, endorsing all types of exercise—both team sports and individual sports—increased boys’ activity levels but not girls’, the study says.
“The difference between activity levels in the girls and boys had to do with the parents’ attitudes toward the types of activities. Parents encouraged sons to partake in vigorous- and moderate-intensity team and individual sports, and vigorous-intensity home chores, such as heavy yard work, more than they encouraged these activities for their daughters,” says lead author Cheryl Braselton Anderson, PhD. “There still is gender bias on encouraging boys to participate in certain sports and strenuous activities more than girls.”
Demographic and ethnic factors also played a role in attitudes toward physical activity. Hispanic parents encouraged their sons to play vigorous team and individual sports but did not encourage their daughters, Anderson says. African American girls, but not boys, placed less value on exercise that required light to moderate effort, like riding their bikes, and both African American girls and boys watched more TV.
More educated parents placed higher value on both vigorous- and moderate-intensity individual or team sports for boys but did not place as high a value for girls, Anderson says. And having more children in the family influenced whether the parents valued sports for girls: More children led to more interest in the girls’ being active.
“Playing team sports, especially the more strenuous ones, really makes a difference in decreasing both boys’ and girls’ media use and making them more active,” Anderson says. “It is a good idea for parents to adopt a positive attitude toward all types of vigorous physical activities for boys and girls and know that girls can and want to do them.”
Source: American Psychological Association