Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


March 14, 2013

On Fitness column: Parental example key for kids

QUESTION: How do you recommend parents best model wellness for their kids?

Expert: Jamey Lachiana

Exercise physiologist

Yangs Fitness Center

Answer: One of my favorite references to how a parent should model wellness for their children came from a 2007 study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development. They took hundreds of children who exhibited a particular behavior, then observed the parents of those children and came to the conclusion that parents provide a distinct model for their children’s own behavior or: monkey see, monkey do.

If parents are generally eating quality foods with their kids, and their children have also seen or know their parents exercise regularly, and their children are encouraged in a positive way, the children are far more likely to be healthy too.

Children love to be active at a very young age. As soon as they learn how to move, they are observing and into everything they can see. As a result we set up a gated community so they don’t hurt themselves. However, once they are able to move the same way adults can, they want to. This is when we should model exercises and have them try the movements along side us. If they see mom or dad doing push-ups, they will try it. The continuous behaviors become embedded in their minds, that exercise is related to enjoyment with their parents. Many people “hate” working out, but if they had done it with their parents at a young age, they would be far more prone to enjoy exercise.

Expert: Art McDermott

Owner, Matrix Strength & Fitness

Answer: Most parents will tell you it is virtually impossible to force a child to do what you want them to do all the time. However, children are excellent at mimicking behaviors. They learn by watching. If you use foul language around the house, can you really be surprised when your children start to do the same?

My wife and I do our best to demonstrate good food choices. We will always have protein and veggies readily available. Does this mean our children always eat a perfect diet? No, but more often than not, they make better choices because they see this behavior so often. This behavior becomes the norm rather than the exception.

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