As a Parent, Your Habits Influence Your Children’s Future Health

 Child Health

We all know the old saying do as I say, not as I do. However, a recent study involving 21,000 participants in Europe found that a parent’s habits – good and bad – have a direct influence on their children’s future behavior, including their health.

“We showed that parents’ characteristics when participants were ten years old explained between 31% and 78% of their adult health,” says Sandy Tubeuf, study co-author.

Researchers evaluated a number of habits and characteristics, including smoking, obesity and lack of exercise, job status, and alcohol problems.

“Beyond the obvious common genetic inheritance across generations, parents’ health also has an impact on their children’s health by imparting habits and lifestyles,” says Tubeuf. For example, “we found that if a person’s father smoked when they were 12, they were almost twice as likely to smoke than people whose father did not smoke at all.”

A Parent’s Role in Their Children’s Health – Current and Future

“Parents occupy a privileged position in terms of influencing their children’s physical activity,” says Cheryl A. Zecevic et al.

For starters, parents have direct control over their children’s healthy behaviors early in life. As a parent, you dictate play time, you sign your children up for organized activities, such as sports teams, and you have the ultimate say in how your child spends their day-to-day life.

“The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen,” says the National Wildlife Foundation.

Secondly, as a parent, you have a tremendous influence on how your child views healthy behavior. Do you promote healthy life choices in your home, such as eating healthy foods or exercising regularly?

“Key is the involvement of parents in their children’s well-being,” says Zecevic et al. “As has been made clear in previous research, intervention and prevention efforts beginning early in childhood may also benefit the children’s cognitive and socioemotional development in enhancing self-perceived competence and learning through fine and gross motor skills development as well as increasing their social skills through organized sports and physical activities.”

So, what kind of example are you setting for your children?

“It’s hard for parents to change their behaviors, but not only is this important for you and your own health; it is also important for your children because you are a role model for them,” says researcher Marissa Stroo. “This might be common sense, but now we have some evidence to support this.”

Prioritizing Fun Family Exercise

“Parents who exercise with their children are not only teaching them how to live a healthy lifestyle, they are also reinforcing the family bonds and creating wonderful family traditions,” says Pam Howard, certified health coach and mother of two. And Terrapin Adventures can help!

Conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures has a ropes course specifically designed for children ages 5-10 – our  Terrapin Explorer kids’ course. With 22 different fun elements, the Terrapin Explorer lets kids walk, balance, swing, zip, and crawl as they get the physical activity they need. Don’t worry! There’s plenty for parents to do as well!

We also offer a number of outdoor adventures that are great for the whole family, like biking, kayaking, caving, and geocaching. And our School’s Out Program (December 27, January 15, and February 19), designed for children ages eight to 12 is a great way to get active. This program has it all: arts and crafts, fun indoor games, nature hikes, zip lining, climbing, swinging, and jumping at our Aerial Adventure Park, and, of course, pizza! The program runs from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, rain or shine. Cost $69/child.

Book Your Adventure

“Children have a great need for physical exercise and activity and a chance to use their muscles to run, swing, jump, skate and ride a bike, and to be out in the fresh air and sunshine,” says Dr. Kathleen Alfano.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at to learn more.

Works Cited

  1. Alfano, Kathleen . “The Benefits of Outdoor Play.” Fisher Price, 2 Aug. 2017, Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
  2. Damien Bricard et al. Inequality of Opportunities in Health and the Principle of Natural Reward: Evidence from European Countries, Health and Inequality (2013). DOI: 10.1108/S1049-2585%282013%290000021016
  3. “Health Benefits.” National Wildlife Federation, Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
  4. “Parenting and Home Environment Influence Children’s Exercise and Eating Habits.” Duke Global Health Institute,
  5. Zecevic, Cheryl A., et al. “Parental Influence on Young Childrens Physical Activity.” International Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 2010, 2010, pp. 1–9., doi:10.1155/2010/468526.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2017 at 10:23 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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