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Kids Bullied in Gym Class Are Less Likely to Exercise

Update Date: Jan 16, 2014 03:24 PM EST

The effects of bullying can last a long time, especially if the victims do not speak up and seek help. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of teasing on young children. The researchers discovered that young children who are teased or bullied in physical education (PE) class are less likely to exercise a year later. Since exercise is extremely important, addressing early signs of teasing during PE could be vital for children's development.

Since several studies in the past have found that bullying can lead to reduced physical activity for overweight and obese children, the researchers of this study looked at the effects of teasing during PE class on children of all weights. The team administered a total of three surveys to fourth and fifth grade students from six elementary schools located in Midwest America. The surveys were distributed at the beginning of the study and then once again a year later.

The first survey collected data on health issues, activities, emotional statuses, academic abilities and social interactions, such as getting along with fellow classmates. The second survey asked the students about any incidences of teasing that occurred during physical activity. The last survey asked the student about specific events of bullying and the emotional effects the bullying had on them.

The researchers identified several types of teasing or bullying, which included verbal insults when the victim was playing sports or exercising, not being picked to a team, and the use of insulting names. The researchers found that children who were of healthy weight that experienced teasing and/or bullying experienced a decline in physical activity levels the following year. Overweight and obese children also had a reduction in physical activity levels.

"Overweight kids who were teased reported poorer functional ability across domains [physical, social, academic and physical]. If we can help them to have a better perception of their physical and social skills, then physical activity may increase and health-related quality is likely to improve," said Chad Jensen, a psychology professor at BYU and lead author of the study, reported by Medical Xpress. "Our finding that this applies to normal-weight kids also was novel."

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

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