A new study conducted by the Vanderbilt School of Medicine found that the greatest influence on kids’ fitness levels is the physical activity tendencies of their peers.
Peer pressure often carries a negative connotation, but in this case, it is a positive one. Kids hanging out with their active friends can lead to more exercise, meaning that a child’s peer group is a way to promote healthy lifestyles and decrease obesity.
Researchers at the Vanderbilt examined social networks in a five to 12-year-old after-school program and recorded students’ minute muscle movements to record their physical activity levels.
When the program began, the children were not familiar with one another, which enabled the researchers to see how making and losing friends affected their fitness level.
The study found that the largest influence on how much time the children spent exercising was their four closest friends. Children who became attached to more active peers were more likely to exercise more, whereas children who lost friends were more sedentary.
This is encouraging news because we now know of another inexpensive yet affective way to help children become more active. Introducing sedentary children to active children could get more students involved in physical activities. This could be improved by forming after-school programs and community programs with children who enjoy exercising, so others might be encouraged to join by association.
Our GoGirlGo! program, seeks to improve the health of sedentary girls and keep girls involved in physical activity by supporting programs and organizations that work with girls. We work in communities to get girls – and their friends — more active because we too know that an active lifestyle is a healthy one.