By Australian fatherhood expert and author of Dads Who Can, Timothy O’Leary
This week is Men’s Health Week and for dads that means two things – firstly, a reminder that early parenting is a marathon not a sprint, so you need to look after yourself to sustain yourself in your parenting. This is especially important as point number two is that dads can have a big impact on the health of their family.
Canadian researchers’ Dr Sarah Allen, and Dr Kerry Daly, from the University of Guelph took a look into 20 years of research into the benefits that come from positive fathering. Their results are very exciting and since it’s men’s health week, we will focus on health.
Did you know that dads influence the health of their baby in the womb? Just by helping mum to have a great diet, moderate exercise, low-stress and a drug-free environment, creates the perfect conditions in the womb for the growing baby. Whereas, if mum is exposed to high stress, drug-use, aggression and violence or poor nutrition, then more toxins and stress-hormones flow through the placenta, but with less nutrition reaching the baby with the greater likelihood of lower weight gain and a more unsettled baby when born.
After the birth dads continue to influence the physical health and well-being of their children through facilitating optimal health outcomes for mothers and this includes mental health.
The more emotionally supportive fathers are of their spouses, the more she is likely to have a greater sense of well being, as well as good mental health post-birth, which is very important when around one in seven mums have post-natal depression.
Fathers also help to increase the physical health of their children starting with breastfeeding. In one study, around 75% of women initiated breastfeeding when their partners attended the breastfeeding classes with them.
Your level of activity, fitness and diet also has a bearing on your child’s health. Active kids tend to have active dads, who are more likely to then take them to the park or join in activities with them. On the other hand, a father’s low level of activity tended to predict a child’s inactivity. The more active a child is, the better their health, especially in the age of screen-time when leisure time is more sedentary for many kids.
It is the dads obesity, not the mum’s that predicts obesity in his son or daughter’s and if Dad’s BMI is on the rise it usually predicts that his daughter’s BMI will rise too.
If the child has asthma or diabetes, the research shows that children are far better off if dad is involved, than if he is absent, with fewer hospital visits.
All of these findings show that by looking after your health as a dad, that you are more likely to improve the health of all those around you in your family. Keep in mind that the keys to great health are well within your grasp and the main thing is moderation. Take a moment to gauge whether your diet and lifestyle is moderate and healthy or could do with some adjustments.
There’s nothing harder than parenting with a hangover – ouch! Try and keep drinking to a moderate level otherwise it can be a sign that you are becoming a habitual drinker or use alcohol as a stress-buster when alcohol is actually a depressant.
Exercise is one of the best stress-busters around. It’s easier to make smaller changes as these will then become lasting and sustainable over time. For example, can you exercise for 25 minutes, 3 times a week? This includes walking! If it’s cold outside look for low-impact exercise clips on YOU TUBE and you’ll feel better in no time!
If you need to talk to someone about your health and wellbeing call mensline on 1300789978.
Here is a link to the report by Dr Sarah Allen, and Dr Kerry Daly. Click here for the link
Remember, that as a dad you are a walking-talking role model to your children. They will do as you do not as you say, so start today and you’ll feel great in yourself, and as their dad!