Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children. Children who have supportive, close and positive relationships with their fathers do better mentally, academically and physically in life. In addition, studies have shown that children whose fathers embrace being a parent confidently have lower levels of behavioural issues as teenagers. Despite this, many fathers struggle with practical actions that they can take to have a constructive impact on their children.
One key area that fathers have been shown to have a particular role to play is physical activity. Parental levels of activity in general and supportive attitudes are important indicators of how active a child is. The most important single factor, however, is paternal activity levels. In other words, having a physically active father makes kids more likely to be active too.
Research has found:
- a consistent relationship between the child’s activity level and the father’s activity level
- results were the same irrespective of age or weight
- children are twice as likely to be active if their mother was, but three and a half times more likely if their father is
- dad’s physical activity had a bigger impact on girls than boys
- children who have one parent who is supportive of physical activity are more likely to continue being active, and even more likely if both parents are
How do I do it?
The easiest and potentially most rewarding way to encourage physical activity in your children as a father is to include them where possible in the activities you do. The NHS has a helpful guide for how much physical activity is suitable for children of various ages:
- Babies should be encouraged to active throughout the day e.g. When they begin to crawl, stimulating play is good;
- Toddlers who are able to walk unaided should be active for around 3 hours a day. Active play, such as at a play park, ball games or skipping is suitable;
- As children get older, from age 5 until 18, it is recommended that they are active for at least 60 minutes a day. This should be moderate to vigorous activity such as sports, running or other exercise.
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