Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-2016


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Nutrition and Health Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Linda Boeckner. Lincoln, NE: May, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Kathryn M. Painter



In general, children learn habits by observing the behavior of family members, especially their parents. This study investigates the impact parental modeling of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary behavior (SB) has on their child’s risk of obesity and physical fitness (PF). It was hypothesized that children whose parents were more physically active and less sedentary would perform to a higher standard on their in-school PF assessment and would also have a lower risk of obesity.


To develop successful childhood obesity interventions, more research is needed to clearly understand the impact of parents’ MVPA and SB on the child. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between parental energy-related activity habits and their child’s risk of obesity and performance on PF in-school assessments.


Participants were 5th and 6th graders from a school in rural Nebraska. After completing FITNESSGRAM®, a MVPA and SB survey was sent home to the parents of the students. Of these 10-12 year olds, 47 males and 56 females returned usable parent surveys contributing to the final sample size of n=103. The PACER and Push-up data were chosen to evaluate the child’s cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.


Higher parental MVPA levels were significantly associated with better performance on the PACER by the child and a higher calculated VO2max (r=0.215, p=.034). Additionally, lower parental SB levels were correlated with the ability to perform more push-ups indicating higher muscular strength of the child (r=-0.239, p=.015). There was no significant relationship between parental MVPA or SB and child weight status.


Results from this study showed links between parental activity habits and child cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength indicating a need for parents, guardians and caregivers to lead by example and foster a pattern of modeling conducive to physical activity (PA).

Advisor: Linda Boeckner