A new, crowd-sourced research study has found that one of the best predictors of kids becoming healthy-weight adults is how much time parents spend with them in childhood.

Cornell’s Brian Wansink, professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management led the team that asked 532 adults via Reddit, “Which childhood experiences and behaviors might predict slimness or obesity in adulthood?” Participants then supplied their own personal information (weight, height) and answered questions about their own childhood. These questions were supplied by the other participants in the study.

The resulting answer was pretty simple: to raise healthy adults, spend more time with them when they are kids.

“Playing with your children, talking about nutrition and simply spending time with them will make it more likely that your child becomes a slim adult,” adds Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “The bottom line for parents is: Spend a lot of time with your kids — it almost doesn’t matter what (activity) you do with them — just stay in their young lives.”

More involved parents will tend to have more meals with their kids and more discussions on health issues. They will also seem more available for conversations that may arise, and kids will see them as trusted adults. Plus, modeling healthy behaviors always gets the message across more clearly than simply telling kids what to do.

Final recommendations from the research team include cooking meals from scratch, spending time outside, playing regularly with your kids, engaging them in conversation, and making sure they get plenty of sleep to support their growing bodies. Participants in the study also generated new predictors, like bullying and the number of friends a child has, that warrant further study and may be helpful in identifying causes of obesity in adulthood.

What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?

Image by Mike Baird via Flickr 

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