Peer selection after school can increase activity, reduce childhood obesity

by Carole Bartoo

Another tool in the battle against childhood obesity may be careful selection of who a child plays with after school. Vanderbilt’s Sabina Gesell, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Pediatrics, is first author of a study in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics that examines the group effect of peers on activity levels of children in after school care programs.

Eighty children, ages 5 to 12, were observed for 12-weeks during their after-care programs. The programs allowed children to interact with different peers throughout the day. Study participants wore a pager-like device called an accelerometer, which detects activity intensity levels over time. The children were observed and were asked to list the friends they “hung out with” the most.

“We found that children in this age group are six times more likely to adjust to their friends’ activity levels, than not. In fact a network of four to five immediate friends has a significant influence on any individual child regardless of their usual activity level,” Gesell said.

Read the full article here.