Energetic parents set example

Jennifer Bowers is doing a thesis on parental influence on kids' activity levels.
Jennifer Bowers is doing a thesis on parental influence on kids' activity levels. Kari Bourne

IT MAY seem like children are constantly on the move, but University of the Sunshine Coast student Jennifer Bowers wants to know just how active they are.

The psychology student is researching physical activity levels of children for her honours degree, finishing in November.

For the past month she has surveyed parents and primary caregivers of primary school-aged children about their influence on the physical activity levels of their children.

"This investigation is examining the impact of parental influence on their children's physical activity levels within Australia," she said.

"The importance and benefits of physical activity and exercise across the human lifespan is well documented.

"Evidence suggests that habits formed in childhood tend to carry across to adulthood.

"Therefore, creating and maintaining a long-term interest in physical activity during primary school, especially among those children who do not identify or engage with traditional sporting activities, is of particular importance."

Ms Bowers said the study was more than looking at kids in sports, rather it was about the parents' influences in their activities.

"Active lifestyles appear to steadily decline as children age and sedentary behaviour becomes more common between the ages of 10 and 15. However, research has indicated that active behaviour habits formed in childhood have shown to remain constant into adulthood," she said.

"We're looking at trying to develop habits in children towards physical activity they can carry through to adulthood."

Ms Bowers said she had also looked at whether seeing their parents taking part in sport motivated children more, or whether parental support and interest in their child's participation in physical activity was more of an influence. The amount of time children spent in front of television and computer screens was also considered.

"Some of the comments from the survey have been parents didn't realise their child spent x amount of time in front of the screens, which limits the time children have to pursue other activities," she said.

Ms Bowers said obesity and sedentary behaviours were such common factors in today's society, it was increasingly important to find ways to combat it.

"I'm hoping to find the main influences from parents on children's motivation to be physically active," she said.

"You can use that to inform parents of how to best motivate their kids to be active."

Aside from needing a suitable topic to focus on for her honours, Ms Bowers has had a history of interest in caring for the wellbeing of others, particularly children.

"My interest has been in helping people reach their fullest potential and lead healthy lifestyles.

"I'd like to work along the lines of that with children."

If you are interested in taking part, go to


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Topics:  education family fitness health university of the sunshine coast

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