Parents have to get creative to be active

family exercise
Developing a culture of exercise in families can be crucial in parents avoiding obesity.

Very young children are hard work, especially at the festive times of the year. As well as literally draining a parent’s energy, they can make a good night’s sleep impossible and require constant attention.

Griffith Health Institute researcher Dr Kyra Hamilton found the early years of parenting to be a potentially crucial for parents avoiding obesity and developing an active family culture.

Guilt free supportDr Hamilton’s research has earned her the prestigious Herman Schaalma Award from the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS).

“Mother’s especially take on an overwhelming ethic of care in which the kids come first, this is natural. What our research found was that mother’s often develop a perception of self care which is associated with guilt,” said Dr Hamilton.

Dr Kyra Hamilton
Dr Kyra Hamilton

“At these times mother’s need more ‘guilt free’ social support to get active and need the support from fathers. Parents have to create an active family culture so you don’t have one parent feeling responsible and frustrated.

Combine normal activity with exercise

“In the early days parents need to be creative about how they use their time and structure exercise.”

Linking with community activities can help parents understand what is possible as well broadening a social circle which can shrink very quickly once the congratulations die down. Dr Hamilton’s top tips were:

  • Make a plan, but be flexible
  • Aim for a few short bursts of exercise every day
  • Combine normal activities with exercise, an extra vigorous sweep or dance with the kids
  • Make sure it’s enjoyable
  • Involve the whole family

“The health decisions parents make for themselves can affect their child’s attitudes to physical activity. The child-baring years is a time when people tend to put on weight and can develop unhealthy habits, which could reinforce the weight gain leading to potentially unhealthy habits in children.”