Kids physical activity may be ‘encouraged’ by friends
New research carried out by researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Department of Human and Organisational Development has suggested that children who are in after school programs often increase their physical activity if they make friends with children who are more active than they are.
by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 28th May 2012
The researchers set out to establish whether ‘a child’s friendship network in an after school program influences his/her physcial activity’. Data was collected in three waves from children attending after school care. Each child’s ‘social network’ and physical activity level was measured.
The study found that children didn’t ‘form or dissolve’ friendships based solely on levels of physical activity, but that existing friendships did indeed have an influence on their levels of activity. It claimed that ‘the strongest influence on the amount of time children spent in moderate-to-vigorous activity in the after school hours was the activity level of their immediate friends. Children consistently made adjustments to their activity levels of 10% or more to emulate the activity levels of their peers and obesity status had marginally significant and relatively small direct effects on the activity. Gender had no direct effect on activity’.
The report, published online in Pediatrics, concluded that ‘these results suggest that friendship ties play a critical role in setting physical activity patterns in children as young as 5 to 12 years. Children’s activity levels can be increased, decreased, or stabilized depending on the activity level of their immediate social network during a 12-week after school program. Network-based interventions hold the potential to produce clinically significant changes to children’s physical activity’.
Source: Pediatrics, The Distribution of Physical Activity in an After-school Friendship Network, 28th May 2012
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