The more active you are, the more active your kids will be, thereby reducing their chances of becoming overweight or obese and developing related health conditions.

New research published Wednesday by Statistics Canada shows that a child's level of physical activity rises by five to 10 minutes for every 20-minute increase in the physical activity of a parent.

It's the first time the connection has been measured between parents' physical activity and their children's, StatsCan said.

The agency said that almost one-third of children in Canada are considered overweight or obese based one the World Health Organization's benchmarks for BMI (body mass index). And less than 10 per cent get the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

That puts them at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular illnesses.

Using data from accelerometers (which can measure motion and changes in velocity) worn by children and their parents, the study found that for every 20-minute increase in the MVPA of a parent, the MVPA of their child rose by five to 10 minutes.

And for every 1,000 steps that a parent walked a day, their child walked 200 to 350 additional steps.

Sedentary behaviour also linked

The obverse is also true: for each additional hour of sedentary behaviour by a parent, like watching TV or playing video games, there was an eight- to 15-minute increase in the sedentary time of a child.

Regardless of a parent's activity level, though, children involved in sports, whether individual lessons or team play, averaged between five and 15 minutes more MVPA per day.


Boys with an obese parent were almost twice as likely to be overweight or obese, StatsCan found. (Oksana Yurlova/Shutterstock)

A child's weight is also linked to the weight of a parent, the research suggests.

Girls with an overweight parent were more than twice as likely to be overweight or obese, and those with an obese parent were more than three times likely compared with girls whose parent was of normal weight.

Boys with an obese parent were almost twice as likely to be overweight or obese.

The associations held even after accounting for factors such as a child's age, level of physical activity, hours of screen time and fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as the age and sex of the parent, StatsCan said.