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Active Friends Keep Kids Fit

January 26, 2011

By Brianne Harrison Moore

Fitness experts often recommend adults work out with a buddy to help keep them motivated. A new study conducted in the UK suggests that sort of support can help youngsters stay fit as well. According to the study, which explored the physical activity of 10- and 11-year-old children, kids who take part in physical activities with their best friend in the neighborhood had higher activity levels than those who did not.

The researchers, from the University of Bristol, collected data for 986 children, of whom 472 provided information on their best friends and their physical activity. The participants reported how often they took part in physical activity with their friend and whether the friend encouraged them to be active.

The study results showed that boys who have best friends who are active engage in greater amounts of physical activity. Girls who engage in active play with their best friend achieve higher levels of physical activity than girls who do so less often.

“Our findings show that supporting physical activity among friendship groups and encouraging friends to be active together, particularly outside of school, may bring about important changes to children’s physical activity,” says study leader Dr. Russ Jago.

“This research proves the strength of buddy power—simply exercising with a best friend or having a friend who is a good exercise role model increases the chance of a child keeping fit and active,” says cardiac nurse Natasha Stewart. “We know that kids who exercise during childhood are more likely to continue these good habits as they grow up, reducing their risk of heart and circulatory disease.

“We are currently faced with a generation of kids whose waistlines are expanding,” she continues. “This research shows that easy initiatives like encouraging your child to run around with their best friend could have a big impact on their health.”

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