Do unfit parents have unhealthy children?

The poor habits displayed by unfit parents may be discouraging their children from leading healthier lifestyles, new research has found. Published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, the study suggested youngsters whose parents do little physical activity are less likely to exercise themselves.

A team from the University of Essex discovered kids with inactive mothers and fathers have a 50 per cent greater risk of being unfit than their peers who have more fitness-conscious mums and dads.

According to the investigation, more than two-thirds of those questioned said their parents do almost no physical activity, despite the London Olympic Games - which is thrusting the issue of fitness into the limelight - being just around the corner.

Dr Gavin Sandercock, who led the research, noted: "We know that being unfit is much worse for your health than being obese and we are now finding out that it is also much more common."

He added it is "quite frightening" to learn that one-quarter of children are unable to run at a medium jogging speed of seven mph.

Philip Johnson, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

"Parents often overestimate their influence on children. We know from sport that coaches can have a powerful influence on young athletes’ activity levels, eating habits and the way they behave more generally. Parents are even stronger role models than that.

Parents are also in charge of family nutrition, of course, so if they encourage activity and proper nutrition they can have a good influence across a child’s lifetime."