Kristen Holm, assistant professor of Medicine at National Jewish Health, and colleagues found when parents increase their daily activity -- measured by a pedometer -- their children increase theirs as well.
"It has long been known that parent and child activity levels are correlated," Holm said in a statement. "This is the first intervention-based study to prospectively demonstrate that when parents increase their activity, children increase theirs as well. The effect was more pronounced on weekends."
The study involved 83 families enrolled in a family-based intervention designed to prevent excess weight gain among overweight and obese children ages 7-14. Parents and children participated in a program based on the small-changes approach promoted by the America on the Move initiative.
Children and parents were encouraged to increase their physical activity by walking an additional 2,000 steps per day.
The study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, found mothers in all 83 families participated in the program, while 34 fathers participated.
On days that mothers reached or exceeded their 2,000-step goal, children took an average of 2,117 additional steps, compared to 1,175 additional steps when mothers did not reach their goal. Father-child activity showed a similar pattern.
Overall, for each 1,000 additional steps a mother took, the child took 196 additional steps.