CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH & BODY COMPOSITION: Parental Influence on Homeschool Children

Record: David Wachob and Robert Alman, “Parental influence on the cardiovascular health and body composition of homeschool children.” International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, 8, No. 3 (2015): 305-311. [Abstract]

Summary: In this article, Wachob and Alman from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania analyze parents’ influence on the cardiovascular health and body composition of homeschool children.

It has been well established in the literature that environmental and parental factors influence the health of children. Since homeschool children do not receive physical exercise though the same means as their traditionally-schooled peers, there are questions about the cardiovascular health of homeschoolers.

The sample includes 14 homeschooling families from western Pennsylvania. The families are composed of 30 children (ages 8 to 16) and their parent-teachers (always the mother). The majority of the children were females (53.3%) and in the 10-11 (36.4%) age group. The tested variables include aerobic capacity (VO2 levels), Body Mass Index (BMI), and body fat percentage. If you are unfamiliar with aerobic capacity, it is essentially the amount of physical activity (in this case, running) that one can complete without tiring.

All of the participating children had an acceptable aerobic capacity for their age groups; however, they did find that the girls were on all on the lower side of healthy, whereas the boys were almost always in the upper half of the acceptable healthy range. This suggests that homeschooled boys have a higher aerobic threshold than homeschooled girls. The aerobic capacity of the children was casually associated with that of the parent.

One third of the children and half of the parent-teachers were overweight or obese based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) BMI chart, whereas around half (56.7%) of the children were either in the overweight (40%) or obese (16.7%) category for body fat. In regards to the parent-teachers, nearly half (42.9%) were in the normal range of body fat percentages for women. Once again, in both of these categories, the researchers found a casual association between the health of the parent and the health of the children.

Appraisal: The most interesting finding from this study is perhaps that when compared to averages for their age-group and gender, homeschooled boys were more successful at physical activity than homeschooled girls. However, there are a number of limitations of the study that must be remembered. Principally, this was a small, non-random sample. In their conclusion, the authors mention that they found these families through their participation in their homeschool physical education program that Wachob discussed in this article. Clearly, if the families chose to enroll in a physical education program, they might be more interested in physical education than other homeschooling families, and thus more physically capable.

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