The present study aimed to assess the relationship between a movement-to-music video exercise program in the home environment and mothers’ enjoyment of exercise with their child for 8 weeks of intervention. The study also reported the relationship between mothers’ enjoyment and device-based measurements of children’s and mothers’ SB and PA, as well as adherence to the training program.
Mothers’ enjoyment of exercise with their child
The present analyses demonstrated that most mothers showed a stable enjoyment score during the eight-week intervention. Mothers in the intervention group received the movement-to-music video for exercising with their child at the beginning of the second week. Overall, the baseline of the mothers’ enjoyment scores was high in both groups. The result indicated that a roof-effect restricted an increase of enjoyment scores in both the intervention and control group. However, on average, mothers in the intervention group increased their enjoyment scores over the study period. We assume that exercising together with the child strengthens the relationship between the mother and child through positive experiences, and could thereby increase the mother’s enjoyment of exercise with the child. This is partly in line with Hallam , who observed that shared musical activities may benefit mother–child interactions and communications. These intrinsically rewarded experiences may increase both mothers’ and children’s enjoyment.
An understanding of the influence of enjoyment is important for the design and implementation of new studies. Precise goal setting might be the additional impetus for busy parents to prioritize their children’s PA above other competing demands . Thus, using the behavioral change models, it would be possible to take into account, for example, capability, opportunity, and motivation, which are all determinants of health behavior .
Relationships between exercises with the video program and mothers’ enjoyment
Within the intervention group, the level of exercise adherence was low during the final intervention week (results reported earlier) [20, 21], being around 20% in this sample. As mothers presented a roof-effect in enjoyment scores at the baseline, the issue was particularly visible between those participants who used the video during the last week compared to those who did not. Even if mothers’ enjoyment was on average higher at the end in both the adherent and non-adherent groups, we believe that this test (meaning EIS questionnaire) might not be sensitive enough to detect changes in mothers’ enjoyment in the short term.
Information on the number of exercises performed with a movement-to-music video was collected via exercise diaries. This leads to the question of whether the mother–child dyads with mothers’ increased enjoyment have found some other ways to play or exercise together. Mothers were asked to record their own and their child’s daily exercise sessions in the diaries, but we do not know how much mothers and children exercised together. Thus, it is reasonable to ask whether the participants performed the exercises only for study purposes, not for playing or having fun together.
Scanlan et al.  defined enjoyment as a positive affective response to the sport experience. Based on previously published comments by the the mothers and children , it seemed that most mothers and children got tired of the sameness in the exercise program, so the exercise adherence was low. The importance of changes within exercise performance, the possibility to do more challenging movements and have an additional load as the intervention progresses should be considered in future studies to maintain enjoyment. The mothers’ role as a facilitator is also important: in the current study, most of the exercises were meant to be done together. Some of the mother–child dyads who used the video during the final week reported that the whole family performed the exercises together, along with the mother and child.
Relationship between mothers’ baseline enjoyment and PA and SB
Mothers’ enjoyment at baseline was not related to their own and their children’s PA, and SB did not reach the level of statistical significance between the groups of higher or lower enjoyment. Our findings contrast with Solomon-Moore et al. , who found that parents’ intrinsic motivation, including enjoyment, and intention to engage in regular family-based PA was positively associated with parents’ MVPA. Regarding children, their finding that parents’ intrinsic motivation was positively associated with children’s MVPA was not supported by our results. Children’s own intrinsic motivation has also been found to be a significant predictor for both PA enjoyment and MVPA in children, especially among 8- to 14-years-olds . However, it was not studied in this research.
A direct association has been reported between maternal role modeling and MVPA among boys and maternal co-participation and MVPA among girls . One of the best predictors of children’s higher MVPA on weekdays has been greater time spent by mothers in organized PA with children, while during weekends, the father’s role was more important than the mother’s . To our knowledge, parents’ role modeling and co-participation are partly influenced by motivation and enjoyment. In this study, we studied the mothers’ enjoyment of exercise with their child instead of co-exercising itself. Besides, we did not separate weekdays and weekends, and the focus of the study was on mother–child dyads instead of the family. In this study, children’s LPA increased if their mothers had higher enjoyment of exercising with them, and children’s SB increased if their mothers had lower enjoyment. However, as shown in Fig. 2, an increase in SB seemed to take the place mostly of standing and an increase in LPA from MVPA, which are both undesirable changes. These results are partly in line with Remmers et al. , who found that enjoyment of PA was related to active behavior. Cantell et al. (2012) also concluded that parental involvement in PA with their children appeared to promote higher levels of MVPA in children . For future studies, it would be important to characterize not only the effect of enjoyment but also the capability and opportunities for explaining the reasons behind the behavior changes .
Relationships between changes in mothers’ enjoyment and PA and SB
Although there was no difference between the intervention and control groups, mothers in the intervention group increased their enjoyment during the intervention. It is notable that if mothers’ enjoyment decreased, their own LPA and their children’s SB increased over time. These changes may be related to the high baseline level of mothers’ enjoyment, as well as lower levels of LPA and SB at baseline compared to other enjoyment groups. We also found that if mothers’ enjoyment remained stable, the children increased their LPA and Total PA. If mothers increased their enjoyment, changes in their children’s PA or SB were not found. This result suggests that an increase in mothers’ enjoyment of exercise with the child does not automatically change mothers or their children’s PA or SB.
Parents’ external control for children may be associated negatively with the child’s PA , which might be a case in these kinds of studies, specifically if a parent does not exercise together with a child. Though speculative, and thus requiring additional research to confirm, we assume that mothers’ (free) play with their children is likely to improve the relationship between mothers and children and thereby increase the mothers’ enjoyment of moving and exercising with their children.
Small PA equipment, such as a pedometer or other wearable devices, might make parents and children more aware of their PA levels . In this study, mother–child dyads received their accelerometer results after the intervention period, but it is possible that knowing they were being measured might have influenced the participants’ behavior by increasing PA at the beginning of the study.
Strengths and limitations
The major strength of the study is the RCT design and the use of the feasible [25,26,27] tri-axial accelerometer for measurements. The enjoyment questionnaire has been developed to measure enjoyment in sport [11, 23], and the modified version to measure enjoyment of exercising with the child  was piloted.
Because of the multi-dimensional and complex nature of behavior change [4, 29], there are several limitations in the current study. The number of the mother–child dyads with acceptable accelerometer measurements and who answered the questions about mothers’ enjoyment of exercise was lower than expected: 228 mother–child dyads were recruited for the RCT, and 108 of them met both of the prerequisites set for this study. The sample size regarding different groups was therefore smaller than it should have been according to power calculations. For this reason, part of the results might show no differences between groups due to a lack of statistical power, and the results can be considered as indicative only.
Furthermore, the current study was a short-term intervention, and maintenance of behavior change over the longer term was not assessed. With regard to children’s and parent’s SB and PA, more high-quality long-term RCTs are needed to examine the effect of enjoyment.
O’Connor et al.  concluded that educational or training program interventions, which include family visits or telephone communication with parents, are promising for the promotion of PA. Since we know how important a role motivation plays in decreasing SB and increasing PA, the movement-to-music video program used in the present study may have been too repetitive. We also did not have any visits or communication with families during the intervention. This may have influenced the exercise enjoyment and adherence of the mother–child dyads.
We also studied the relationship between mothers’ enjoyment and mothers’ and children’s SB and PA. It is known that support from parents and their activity as role models is related to children’s PA . To our knowledge, there is growing interest in exercise interventions focused on the SB and PA of parents and 5- to 7-year old children. However, when enjoyment has been included, the main focus has been how to make exercises enjoyable for children.
In family studies, it would be essential to study the effect of both parents on children. However, we did not study the relationship between fathers and children. Cantell et al. (2012) found that mothers’ role as an enabler is more influential during weekdays and fathers’ during weekends. In the current study, we did not separate weekdays or weekends, or the time mother–child dyads spent together from daycare or preschool and working time. We analyzed the proportions of SB and PA during mothers’ and children’s waking time. The result was that the percentage using video programs in the home environment was smaller than if analyzed as a part of mother–child dyads’ leisure time. This choice may have influenced the results.
PA and SB, as measured by the accelerometer, described overall movement and activity during waking hours, but it did not indicate where and with whom that movement was done. Thus, the total PA and SB might describe something different from exercise according to the video.
Several sets of tests were run for both mothers and children. This can cause false positives in results since corrections related to the number of tests and significance were not done.
Despite these limitations, the current study provides valuable information about mothers’ enjoyment of exercise with their children and the effects of performed exercises on children’s SB and PA.