New Study: Family Involvement May Help Kids Lose Weight

A mother and daughter practice basketball skills together at a neighborhood playground.

A new scientific study released last week by the Journal of the American Heart Association reviews strategies shown to be successful in helping children get healthy. Involving parents in weight loss efforts could go a long way in helping children change their behaviors, the study finds.

The childhood obesity epidemic in America is growing at an alarming rate. Our obesity and physical activity research has found that failure to address the development of regular physical activity behaviors and good nutrition at an early age in girls has major health and economic consequences. When girls participate in sport by the age of ten, there is much larger chance that they will still be participating at age 25. 

"In many cases, the adults in a family may be the most effective change agents to help obese children attain and maintain a healthier weight," said Myles Faith, chairman of the American Heart Association’s statement writing group, in a news release. "To do so, the adults may need to modify their own behavior and try some research-based strategies."

These research-based strategies include singling out specific behaviors that need to be changed, spelling out activity options for children, changing the kitchen around to make wholesome foods more accessible, praising kids for what they're doing right instead of punishing them for what they're doing wrong and having parents demonstrate a healthy lifestyle through their own consistent healthy behavior.

Parents can also help shape their children's attitude and perspective on physical activity. No longer does living a healthy lifestyle mean "exercise." Playing on the playground, using movement and dance-based video games, simply strolling around the neighborhood -- these are all valuable forms of activity and easy ways to embed positive behavior in children at an early age.

The WSF’s award-winning educational curriculum, GoGirlGo!, works to improve the health of sedentary girls and to keep girls involved in physical activity. Learn more about getting your children involved in GoGirlGo! here. Our simple and easy-to-implement resource, Tips for Getting Girls Active, provides parents with the essential information to get their girls to be physically active and help guide them to a healthier lifestyle.

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