Friends Have Positive Influence on Physical Exercise

Physical exercise and physical activity (PA) are positive behaviors that promote mental and physical health. For young people, the importance of PA cannot be overestimated. Childhood obesity is on the rise and public schools are eliminating exercise programs daily. More parents work and unattended children often have access to video games, computers, and television.

Technological advances have had a negative effect on overall PA among youth, and have potentially contributed to increased obesity and other health problems in young people. Understanding what factors promote PA in young people is vital and could help strengthen interventions and approaches aimed at increasing overall PA in today’s youth.

Claire C. Maturo, MPH, of the Department of Behavioral Science and Health Education at Emory University in Georgia wanted to investigate this issue further. To do so, she analyzed data from 106 existing studies on PA and youth. She looked only at those studies that explored peer influence in young people under the age of 19.

Maturo found that 43 of 55 studies showed a strong positive relationship between peer and friend encouragement and participant PA. She also found that when friends encouraged the participant, the friends also increased their exercise levels. Further, engaging with friends was a promoting factor for PA in 9 of 10 studies.

Childhood obesity is linked to diabetes and future risk of high blood pressure and cardiac issues. During childhood, obesity and lack of PA can make someone a target for bullying. The negative effects of low PA can include depression, anxiety, low mood, poor attention, lack of focus, academic concerns, and overall poor physical health.

“Understanding friendship influences in childhood can facilitate the promotion of lifelong healthy habits,” said Maturo. “PA with friends should be considered in health promotion programs.” Although more work needs to be done on this critical topic, this latest research is an important step on the long road toward better health for the next generation and those to follow.

Maturo, Claire C., MPH, and Solveig A. Cunningham, PhD. (2013). Influence of friends on children’s physical activity: A review. American Journal of Public Health 103.7 (2013): E23-38. ProQuest. Web.

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The preceding article summarizes research or news from periodicals or related source material in the fields of mental health and psychology. did not participate in or condone any studies, or conclucions thereof, that may have been cited. Any views or opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by

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  • alex

    August 15th, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    there is nothing like having company of friends when it comes to physical activities.same reason why so many team sports are a great way to foster the physical activity at a young age in children.this needs to be encouraged at every school as it could set the standard for a lifelong following by these children.

  • Andy

    August 15th, 2013 at 4:16 AM

    I hope that this holds true because I have a daughter who is verging a little on being fat but most of her friends are pretty thin and fot. I keep hoping that she will take a cue from them and emulate their eating and exercise habits and while it doesn’t seem to be happening yet I think that eventually it will. I don’t want to have to be the one who says something to her about her weight as I think that this would just destroy her, but I hope that something is out there that can make an impact on her soon before mean kids at school do.

  • Julia

    August 15th, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I know that there are many people who love working out with friends but surely I can’t be alone in my mantra that this is my time, my time to think and sort things out, and I really just want to be alone when I go run or walk or whatever I amy choose for that day.
    Yes my friends give me comfort and make me laugh and in general are pretty good stress relievers. But there are times when I don’t want that, I want a little time to work things out on my own and honestly that’s what my exercise time gives to me.
    But that’s not to say that this is not going to work for someone because sometimes there can be no better motivator than a friend telling you to get your butt up and go on a run with them!

  • carrie R

    August 16th, 2013 at 4:30 AM

    Just being around my thin friends makes me feel even worse.

    So I just go home and eat.

    Not really the best way to handle that huh?

  • mike

    August 17th, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    companionship has a major effect in habits and activities.i have seen both sides,being in the football team in high school and being with a bunch of I-wanna-stay-bed people in college…it disgusted me and I soon became a loner.much better than being with negatively influencing people I guess.i have decided to let my own kids choose an active lifestyle and hopefully they will find similar peers.

  • Libby Wheeler

    August 17th, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    Find a club that you will enjoy being a part of and this can be so encouraging for you. I never thought that I would enjoy biking but I found a women’s only biking club and I thrive on our weekend trips now! I have made some awesome new friends and have started to enjoy something again that I hadn’t done since I was a kid.

  • robinson

    August 19th, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    As a friend of someone who is morbidly obese and who needs to do something with his health or I feel I will lose him over the next few years, I kind of am afraid of what to say because I don’t wnat to offend him or drive him away.

    I mean obviously he knows he is fat and needs to do something but shouldn’t that be left up to him to make that choice? I will help him out any way that I can when he is ready but. . . I guess I just don’t want to run the risk of driving him away.

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