Can Friends Impact Your Child's Activity Level?

Liz Fogle

We all know how contagious cold viruses can be among children, but what about a child’s activity level. Is it contagious too? Can your child’s activity level (or lack of) impact his or hers friends activity levels? There is a new study published (this week) in the journal of Pediatrics that looks at the relationship of peers and activity level.

Before I get into any of my thoughts, let me briefly catch you up on the study (the best I can...I am not a doctor). The study was performed by Vanderbilt University. Researchers studied students attending after-school programs in Nashville, TN. They discovered children were six times as likely to be physically active, if they were in a social group that included others that were physically active. Researchers also saw a link between the levels of activity. Kids who played with others that had a higher level of activity were more likely to increase their level (are you confused yet?).

Apparently, this study is one of the first of its kind. Many in the medical field seem to agree with the study’s findings and see it as another piece to fighting the obesity epidemic. The most recent statistic I found on obesity among children was that 1 in 5 children in the United States are considered obese.

Honestly, I hope this new study does give us some insight to fighting the obesity epidemic in children. The study got me thinking about a couple of things. Not so much about Bug (my daughter) and her peers influence on her activity, but what kind of influence I have as a mom. If a child’s activity level can be influences by peers, I believe it can definitely be influenced by a parent. Bug has been going to the gym with me since she has been a baby. We’ve had numerous conversations about why mommy works out. I can only hope that through these conversations and experiences at the gym, that Bug realizes the importance of physical activity for health and wellness. I know time will tell, but I will keep modeling this positive behavior.

I know the study looks at activity level and its influence, but it also got me to thinking about the impact my eating habits have on Bug. Before I started my weight loss journey (about 18 months ago), I was considered “overweight” and “unhealthy”. While I didn’t like being overweight, it was the poor behavior/example I was setting for Bug that bothered me the most. I kept asking myself, “How can I encourage Bug to eat good food and in moderation if I had no concept of It”?!?! While the journey has been long and hard, I feel like I am not just telling Bug what foods are good for her anymore, but showing her through action.

Probably the last thing the study had me thinking about was, ways to encourage activity in my family’s daily life (especially now that it is summer). I don’t want Bug sitting in front of the television or computer all summer. I want her to enjoy the sunshine, warm weather, and break from school. This is going to require me as mom to limit her time on electronic devices and encourage her to get outdoors and get dirty! It is also going to require me to be a little more hands on and not rely on the television as a babysitter. I can’t wait for: summer bike rides, lots of hopscotch, swimming, playing on the swing set, and just having fun!!!

So what are you thoughts on this new study? Do you see this in your children and their peers? Also, how do you encourage them to get out and get active?

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