Go play with your (active) friends

June 1, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, Middle Years

Children who hang out with active kids are more likely to be active themselves.

That’s according to a new study published in the May 28 issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee measured activity levels among children attending after-school programs in Nashville. They found that children don’t make or break friendships based on physical activity levels. Rather, the biggest influence on the amount of time children spend in moderate to vigorous activity is the activity level of their existing friends.

“These results suggest that friendship ties play a critical role in setting physical activity patterns in children as young as 5 to 12 years,” the study says. “Children’s activity levels can be increased, decreased, or stabilized depending on the activity level of their immediate social network …”

With ongoing concern about rising obesity levels in our country, there’s no doubt starting fitness habits early can help children steer clear of the path to obesity. In addition to encouraging active friendships, how can you encourage healthy habits in your preschooler?

  • Do some chores. Yard work, mopping, sweeping – even plucking weeds – all get muscles moving. It’s a way to encourage activity and get help around the house!
  • Take a family excursion. Head out for a walk, ride a bike or hike in a park. Doing activities together provides time for bonding in a healthy way.
  • Get out and play. Throw a Frisbee in the yard, jump rope or skip down the sidewalk. Take advantage of spring weather to explore the world on foot.
  • Set the example. If you’re going to the grocery store, park away from the front door and walk. Use the stairs whenever possible – even at the mall.
  • Set up a play date. Have your child invite a friend over to play and plan some outdoor activities at home, or plan a picnic at a local playground.

Whatever you do, make physical activity part of every day for your child – without pointing out that that’s what it is. The more physically active your child is, the more inclined he/she will be to engage in physical play instead of plopping down in front of the TV or computer. Establishing good routines now will set your child up for a lifetime of healthy habits.


Read more on the study at www.reuters.com

Get ideas for helping your child be active at www.KidsHealth.org

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