Science

Emory Research: Children’s Friends Influence Physical Activity Level

Three boys playing tug-of-war --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Three boys playing tug-of-war --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Researchers at Emory University say who your child picks as a friend may be a big factor in your child’s level of physical activity.

In a review article that appears in the May 16, 2013, edition of the American Journal of Public Health, Emory researchers looked at hundreds of prior studies about children’s activity levels.

They found a correlation between the attitudes of children’s peers and how physically active they are. For example, children whose friends are physically active tend to be more active themselves.  And children who are active in the company of their friends are likely to be active for longer periods of time.

Demographer Solveig Cunningham, Ph.D., who studied the data, says the research also suggests that certain kinds of children are more influenced by active peers than others. “Friendship influences seem to be more often incentive for kids who are overweight and for girls. So for people feel they are not really good at sports or who are anxious about being active, friends may be particularly important in getting them up and out.” 

Dr. Cunningham is a researcher with Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

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