Parental physical activities are associated with directly measured physical activity in young children: the GECKO Drenthe cohort

Silvia Brouwer, Leanne Kupers, Lotte Kors, Anna Sijtsma, Pieter Sauer, Carry Renders, Eva Corpeleijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Physical activity (PA) is important in combating childhood obesity. Parents, and thus parental PA, could influence PA in young children. We examined whether the time spent at different intensities of PA and the type of parental PA are associated with the PA of children aged 4–7 years, and whether the associations between child-parent pairs were sex-specific. Methods: All the participants were recruited from the Groningen Expert Center for Kids with Obesity (GECKO) birth cohort (babies born between 1 April 2006 and 1 April 2007 in Drenthe province, the Netherlands) and were aged 4–7 years during measurement. PA in children was measured using the ActiGraph GT3X (worn at least 3 days, ≥10 h per day). PA in parents was assessed using the validated SQUASH questionnaire. Results: Of the N = 1146 children with valid ActiGraph data and 838 mothers and 814 fathers with valid questionnaire data, 623 child-parent pairs with complete data were analysed. More leisure time PA in mothers was associated with more time spent in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) in children (Spearman r = 0.079, P < .05). Maternal PA was significantly related to PA in girls, but not boys. More time spent in maternal vigorous PA, in sports activity, and leisure time PA, were all related to higher MVPA in girls (Spearman r = 0.159, r = 0.133 and r = 0.127 respectively, Pall < .05). In fathers, PA levels were predominantly related to PA in sons. High MVPA in fathers was also related to high MVPA in sons (r = 0.132, P < 0.5). Spending more time in light PA was related to more sedentary time and less time in MVPA in sons. Conclusions: Higher PA in mothers, for instance in leisure activities, is related to higher PA in daughters, and more active fathers are related to more active sons. To support PA in young children, interventions could focus on the PA of the parent of the same sex as the child. Special attention may be needed for families where the parents have sedentary jobs, as children from these families seem to adopt more sedentary behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2018


  • physical activity
  • family
  • children
  • role model


Dive into the research topics of 'Parental physical activities are associated with directly measured physical activity in young children: the GECKO Drenthe cohort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this