Getting Fat? Blame the Kids

Americans with children aged 18 years or younger are less likely to exercise and more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a new report.

The findings are based on more than 59,000 interviews with Americans, aged 18 to 50, from January to June 2010, conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Participants were asked "In the last seven days, on how many days did you exercise for 30 or more minutes?" The impact on exercise was most pronounced for those with very young kids, aged 0 to 4. About 28 percent of parents in this group said that they exercised for 30 minutes a day "no days per week," compared with about 25 percent of those with no children. Although these differences are small, they are still significant, the researchers say.

Parents with a child 18 years old or younger were also less likely to report exercising five days a week.

Parents of 5- to 18-year-olds suffer the most when it comes to obesity. About 26.5 percent of parents in this group had a body mass index (BMI) that put them in the obese category, and 35.8 percent fell into the overweight category. For those with no children under the age of 18, 24.3 percent were obese and 32.2 percent were overweight.

Parents with kids at home are also less likely to be normal weight than are those adults with no child at home.

While the exercise habits and weight issues of parents themselves are a significant problem for the health and quality of life of those individuals, they can also be a drain on health care costs. An even bigger crisis, the researchers point out, involves the potential effects on the children of these parents.

Parental health habits have an impact on children, and numerous studies have found that children who have obese parents are more likely to be obese as adults.

Subjects were interviewed by telephone, either landline or cell phone, between Jan. 1 and June 14, 2010. Of those responding, 13,600 had at least one child in the household that was 4 years or younger, 21,605 had a youngest child in the household that was between 5 and 18, and another 23,571 had no child younger than 18 living in the household.

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