The world-first physical activity research program ‘Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered’ (DADEE) kicks off at the University of Newcastle today with around 100 Hunter fathers taking part.
The study aims to instil young girls with the physical and social-emotional skills needed for a happy and healthy life.
Professor Phil Morgan Newcastle, Deputy Director at the UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said the DADEE team had more than doubled the recruitment size due to an overwhelming response.
“We initially thought we’d recruit about 50 families and run the program once a week,” he told ABC Newcastle. “We’ve had such an overwhelming response that we’ve made a decision to run it on two nights – Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s just really exciting to see that the program has been really appealing and there’s lots of dads and daughters out there keen to be involved.”
Research shows that more than 80 per cent of girls fail to meet physical activity recommendations and fewer than 10 per cent can adequately perform fundamental movement skills such as kicking and throwing – results that are significantly worse than for boys of the same age.
Professor Morgan believes fathers are one of the key role models and motivators in a girl’s life: “Research has consistently demonstrated the unique and powerful influence dads can wield in shaping physical activity behaviours, learning ability, self-esteem, social skills and resilience, particularly for girls,” he said.
Over nine weeks, fathers and daughters will attend sessions involving a range of physical activities and challenges designed to improve the fitness, confidence and physical competence of the girls, to empower them, and to optimise their social-emotional wellbeing.
“Research shows that girls are marginalised in home and school physical activity contexts,” Professor Morgan added. “Importantly, we also know that the father-daughter relationship is associated with significant psycho-social developmental and health outcomes. Physical activity provides a unique domain to foster this relationship.”
DADEE is supported by Port Waratah Coal Services, the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation and HMRI.
*HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.