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Kids Who Feel Left Out Are Less Active

Children Who Feel Ostracized Are Less Likely to Be Physically Active

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 6, 2012 -- Children who feel left out, even for a little while, may be less active.

A new study shows that kids who are ostracized by other children are more likely to choose non-active pastimes over physical ones.

The results showed that children who were excluded during an online computer game later spent 41% more minutes being sedentary, rather than choosing a more physical activity at a gym where they could pick any diversion they liked.

Researchers say it's the first study to look at the effect of ostracism on physical activity in children.

"These findings are worrisome," write researcher Jacob E. Barkley, PhD, of Kent State University, and colleagues in Pediatrics. "The lack of physical activity and engagement in sedentary behaviors in children and adolescents are concurrently and prospectively related to obesity and other health difficulties."

Previous studies have already shown that ostracism increases eating. Researchers say these results suggest another possible way that ostracism may contribute to childhood obesity.

Negative Feelings for Ostracized Kids

In the study, researchers asked 19 children between the ages of 8 and 12 to play a virtual ball-toss computer game. Each child was told he or she was playing with two other children over the Internet.

In half of the sessions, the game was pre-programmed to include the child receiving the ball one-third of the time. In the other sessions, the child got the ball only two out of 30 throws. Each child played the three-minute game once under each condition.

After the online game experience, the children were taken to a gymnasium and wore an accelerometer that measured their activity levels.

At the gym, the children could choose from physical activities such as navigating an obstacle course, jumping rope, kicking a soccer ball around cones, or shooting a basketball, or sedentary activities, including drawing, crossword puzzles, word finds, or reading magazines.

The results showed that after being ostracized in the computer game, the children accumulated 22% fewer counts on the accelerometer and spent 41% more minutes in sedentary activities compared to when they were included.

"This suggests that experiencing ostracism has an immediate negative impact on children's choice to be physically active," write the researchers.

Interestingly, researchers say, children said they liked each post-game activity session equally, whether or not they had been ostracized.

SOURCES: Barkley, J. Pediatrics, March 2012.News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

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