Research from Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign tells us that parents have a crucial role in helping their children lead active lives. We’ve spoken to stay-at-home dad and blogger John Hibbs, aged 40 from Hednesford, Staffordshire, about what he finds to be the benefits of exercising with his two daughters, Xanthe (aged 5) and Constance (aged 2).

John and his daughter

John and his daughter

  • One of the most important reasons we exercise together is to have fun as a family. My eldest daughter Xanthe in particular is highly energetic so anything to do with running or expending energy means that she has huge smile on her face, which lets me know that she’s having fun.
  • Another equally important reason we exercise together is for her to realise her own power and strength. To be able to achieve things such as the 10,000 steps she hit yesterday or the twist on the bars at gymnastics (I was definitely not involved in the latter) means that she can appreciate what she can achieve when she puts her mind to it.
  • Similarly, some of the activities she partakes in take commitment and determination to succeed. Sometimes she hits the goals with ease and other times, with a little more effort. Either way, she learns that she can do it and that it’s okay to fail or not to be good at something – the main thing is that she’s had a go.
  • We live on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so we like to get outdoors and take in the air whether it’s raining, snowing or as beaming sunshine. We know that one of the deterrents to participating in exercise as a family is us parents worry about keeping up with our children. We find that walking overcomes this and in particular walking around Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty helps us to remember that the world around us is as important as the technology which surrounds us. It allows us to slow down and take the time to notice the shapes, colours and sounds in nature and talk to one another.
  • One of the things we’ve found as a family is exercise has helped us establish a healthy sleeping cycle with our children as our daughters are usually shattered afterwards. This in turn helps her concentration when it comes to school and any wider learning.
  • Exercising together builds what we see as a healthy model for our girls. Their mum runs and I run. If they see these models of exercise, we feel both of our girls will continue to follow a pattern of exercise as they grow up and into adulthood. We know that for girls, having an active mother and/or father is associated with a higher probability of being active than an inactive parental figure so we want to set the best example we can.
  • The fact that, for some, doing exercise helps to maintain a clear mind is another reason why we want to encourage our girls to build exercise into their routines. In a world which is crowded with images that can have a corrosive effect on our own well-being, using exercise to shake off the preoccupations of everyday life and the effect of social media can be a form of relief - whether for teens or adults. It’s brilliant the This Girl Can campaign represents and champions women of all shapes, sizes and ages by using only real women in their campaign – no photoshopping or retouching. We think it sends a fantastic message to our girls.


  • Research by This Girl Can tells us that, while a key reason for not participating in exercise as a family is that parents fear that they cannot keep up with their children, walking is a particularly appealing activity for fathers and daughters because it’s an activity which they can both take part in because it’s relatively accessible and light-intensity.
  • Insight from This Girl Can finds that for girls, having an active mother and/or father is associated with a higher probability of being active than an inactive parental figure.

Tagged in