Latino Children Mirror Poor Exercise Habits of Parents

Latino parents may have more control over their children’s health than realized. A new study suggests the activity levels of Hispanic children closely parallel those of their parents.

The study, conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, tracked the physical activity levels of 80 Hispanic parents and their preschool-aged children.  Three months worth of data showed that Hispanic parents play a significant role in setting patterns of physical activity for their children.

The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly 23 percent of immigrant Hispanic children in the study are physically inactive. While they may be at most risk, prevalence of inactivity decreases only by five digits for U.S. born Hispanic children. These are alarming figures when compared to the fact that less than 10 percent of their White peers lead sedentary lifestyles.

The significance of parents’ leisurely activity becomes even more apparent when you consider that nearly three in every 10 Mexican American preschoolers is overweight or obese.  "These striking figures should not be taken lightly," the authors of the study wrote. "Overweight and obese status established by preschool has been found to persist into adolescence and adulthood."

The good news is that parents can make a difference! A positive influence could be seen among children when parents were involved in mild-to-moderate activity. According to the Los Angeles Times, “their children were more likely to show a jump in physical activity levels.”