Why Your Child's Friends Can Help Them Exercise More

There's no denying that children are heavily influenced by their friends—but as it turns out, not all peer pressure is negative. In fact, friends can influence each other positively, especially when it relates to mimicking a friend's physical activity.

New research concludes that friends can influence a child to exercise. The study, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, asked 104 children and teens to list 10 potential benefits and 15 potential barriers to being physically active. The top reasons kids listed as impeding their activity included: feeling self-conscious, poor health, lack of enjoyment, and lack of self-discipline and energy.

"Children and teens who did physical activities with a friend were far less likely to cite barriers for not exercising, while family participation or encouragement did not have this effect," reports Health Day.

Of the participants with the highest level of activity, 76 percent reported being physically active with their friends.

"Having physically active friends may make it easier for obese children to get involved with activities and lower the perceived barriers for doing so, while having a physically-active family may not be as inspiring," says Jessica Graus Woo, the study's author and an associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

Though parents may focus on giving encouragement and setting a good example as ways to help a child exercise and be mindful of weight issues, this research shows that your child's social circle is an important influence.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Friends playing outside via Shutterstock

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