A bit of peer pressure can be a good thing. In a new study, Vanderbilt University researchers noticed trends in the physical activity levels of friend groups of 5-12 year olds. As children develop new friendships, they adjust their activity level to match their friends. The results may indicate many potential solutions for increasing physical activity levels of youth.
School and organization staff could intentionally mix social groups to increase the physical activity of less active students. By placing less active students in groups with more active kids, friendships may develop and all students may become more active throughout the school day and/or program.
Schools or programs may develop student leaders to champion physical activity and play in the peer group. As both active youth and good friends, student leaders could see that active play is contagious. These kids would develop leadership skills and positively influence their community.
Since physical activity is contagious and play is fun, developing a culture of play at school or in the community will support the health and well-being of that community. By introducing fun, active games at recess or other play time, we can develop active youth all peer groups and spread the power of physical activity. Active play is indeed contagious and its benefits are numerous.
Never underestimate the value of our kids’ friends. As pediatrician Dr. William Stratbucker said, "One big take-home message is that parents have to be aware of where their kids spend time during the day and if they're spending time in an after-school care program, which is very common, they need to be aware of what the environment's like there and what opportunities there are for the kids to be active."
What steps do you think society should take to increase the physical activity levels of kids?