The researchers found that fathers' participation in physical child care activities like bathing and dressing children or taking them outside for walks and playtime was associated with reduced likelihood that their children would become obese from age 2 to 4.
"There is growing evidence of the importance of fathers' involvement in raising children in other areas of children's development. Our study suggests there may be benefits to child health as well," said lead author of the study, Michelle Wong, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
The study, published in the journal Obesity, used data from a survey conducted in a nationally representative sample of children in the US.
Current parenting childhood obesity interventions primarily target mothers as their involvement is seen as more important.
Fathers have noted feeling neglected during visits with their child's pediatrician according to the researchers.
The findings suggest that encouraging fathers to increase their involvement with raising children and including fathers in childhood obesity prevention efforts may help reduce obesity risk among young children.
The researches hope for future studies to understand the relative caregiving involvement of both mothers and fathers to formulate methods to better tackle the obesity epidemic.