RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Hanging with your buds is a time-honored rite of teendom. A new study finds it may actually promote a more active lifestyle. But don’t tell them that; you still want them to think it’s cool.
THE DETAILS: Scientists from the State University of New York at Buffalo questioned 10 boys and 10 girls for one week about their activities and whether they were alone or with others. The kids were all between ages 12 and 14. Every 2 hours for 7 consecutive days, the kids were asked by pager what they were doing, how active they were, how many people were with them, and similar questions. (Since they were being asked by scientists, not their parents, they didn’t mind answering.) When the results were analyzed, the presence of peers turned out to be the only significant predictor of the children’s activity intensity. All the kids were more active when with peers or friends than when they were alone. This was especially true for overweight kids, who were even more active than normal-weight kids when they were with friends.
WHAT IT MEANS: We usually think of peer pressure as a bad thing, but in this case kids seem to influence each other’s behavior in healthy ways. The study authors note that being with peers tends to offer active alternatives to overeating and couch-surfing, two behaviors that seem particularly attractive to kids who are alone. In fact, the authors contend, the power of friendship is so strong for kids that it may be a necessary component of any attempt to get them to be more active.
Here’s how you can harness friendly peer pressure to keep your child at a healthy weight: