When Parents Work Out, Kids Stay Slim, Study Says

Filed under: In The News, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens

Set a healthy example for your kids. Credit: Getty Images

No mom wants to see her kid's bare-bellied flab making its TV debut on "The Biggest Loser." But before you head to the gym for Mommy/Baby Zumba, consider a new study that finds it's only the parents who need to muscle up and keep their hands out of the cookie jar.

Despite your best intentions to get your kid to crave carrots and perform happy baby poses in utero, it turns out that when healthy eating and exercise is taught to parents only, their kids shed about the same amount of poundage as if you'd hauled them to exercise classes, too, according to the study published in the journal Obesity.

"Our results showed that the parent-only group was not inferior in terms of child weight loss, parent weight loss and child physical activity," says study author Kerri Boutelle, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, in a release.

Though current fat camp-esque childhood obesity programs call for parent/kid participation, researchers found that parents are the biggest influences on flabby kids, and that it's the healthy behaviors of moms and dads that could have the largest impact in changing recent data that suggests 31 percent of children in the United States are overweight or obese. That adds up to 4 to 5 million kids, the release says.

"Parents are the most significant people in a child's environment, serving as the first and most important teachers," Boutelle says in the release. "Since they play a significant role in any weight-loss program for children, we wondered if the same results could be achieved by working with just the parents, without the child coming to the clinic."

The study involved 80 families with overweight or obese children aged 8 to 12, according to the release. Half of the families entered a five-month education program with kids in tow, while the other 40 families attended parents-only classes. At the beginning and end of the five-month term, and at a follow-up six months later, researchers measured both parents' and children's body size as well as the kids' daily caloric intake and physical activity.

In every measure aside from caloric intake, the families in the parent-only group showed as much improvement as those getting parent-and-child education, according to the release.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.