If you had told me 12 months ago, when I couldn’t run 500 metres, that I could run a half-marathon, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I have run two half-marathons and, at best, lost 16 kilos.
In 2009, Hunter businessman and father of four, Shannyn Robards, and his children Brianna and Joshuaa, took part in a University-based pilot trial of the Healthy Dads Healthy Kids study, with amazing results.
“I had always enjoyed jogging as an exercise pastime but over the past few years had allowed my exercise pattern to deteriorate,” Shannyn said.
“Over the three months that the course was conducted I was able to improve my diet, moderate my alcohol consumption, reduce my weight and started to run further and further without running out of energy.”
“My wardrobe had become obsolete as I no longer had use for my XL and XXL clothes!”
Shannyn also found the health benefits have flowed to his whole family, as well as a tighter-knit family unit.
“The good thing is that as parents we now are better informed and are more determined to promote healthy eating habits in our children.”
“Our children certainly now eat better, exercise more regularly, and we all have more fun together as a family.”
Healthy Dads Healthy Kids is designed to reduce obesity levels in fathers by encouraging active family lifestyles and promoting healthier eating for the whole family.
With obesity on the rise, lead investigator and creator of the program, Associate Professor Phil Morgan, says that it is important for researchers to address this serious health concern.
“More than 70 per cent of men are overweight or obese, but the other more serious issue is that many children are not as active as they should be, and are also eating diets that are of very poor quality,” Associate Professor Morgan said.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing a range of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung diseases and some cancers.
“We have designed this program to help fathers promote and demonstrate positive physical activity and healthy eating for their children.”
Associate Professor Morgan says that Shannyn’s experience is typical of the participants in the program. Fathers improve their general health and, importantly, so do the kids.
“Through dads improving their own health behaviours and outcomes, we found that their children became more active, were fitter, and maintained better quality diets,” he said.
“It was a really great effect showing that by impacting on dads’ behaviours and teaching them to be better role models, it had a positive influence on their children too.”
“If we can roll Healthy Dads Healthy Kids out across Australia, we could have far-reaching effects for a lot of families.”
In the trial program of Healthy Dads Healthy Kids, fathers significantly improved their health profiles, and 85 per cent of fathers achieved a weight loss of greater than five per cent of their body weight.
The fathers also reduced their waist circumferences; reduced their blood pressure and resting heart rates; increased their rates of physical activity; decreased their kilojoule intake; and improved their overall diet.
Importantly, fathers maintained improvements from three to six months after the program, despite no contact between researchers and participants.
Children who participated with their fathers in the Healthy Dads Healthy Kids program became more active and fitter and, importantly, ate more healthily.
With significant support from the Coal & Allied Community Development Fund, Healthy Dads Healthy Kids is currently being rolled out in a community setting through the Upper Hunter, reaching hundreds of fathers and their families. If extended nationally, the program could reduce obesity prevalence nationally and prevent obesity in children.