06/01/2012 05:03 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

Kids' Close Friends Influence Their Physical Activity

By: Robyn Gee

Children are highly influenced by their close friends in terms of how physically active they are, according to a new study in Pediatrics.

Eric Tesdahl, a doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University, was one of the authors of the study. Until now, it was common knowledge, that young people would “cluster” together by similar levels of physical activity. But Tesdahl told Youth Radio, that the reason for this was unclear.

“We were expecting to see it was both... a process of social influence, or peer pressure, but also that kids are choosing new friends based on health behaviors,” he said.

Instead, Tesdahl and his co-authors were surprised to find that there was no evidence that kids were choosing friends based on how active they are. “Over time, they were likely to become more similar to the friends that they did have in terms of activity level. It’s one of the first studies to show that children will influence each other in terms of a health behavior,” said Tesdahl.

The study was conducted at two different after-school programs, with about 80 children between the ages of 5 - 12, and over a period of 12 weeks. Children wore accelerometers during their free “play-time.”

The gadgets measured whether the children were running, jumping, sitting, etc. once every second. Children were also asked to identify their close friends in the program after four weeks, eight weeks, and then 12 weeks.

“It’s exciting because potentially there could be ways to use this knowledge to help people become more active through their peer groups, but it’s equally important to understand that our findings show that you can become less active through your peer groups,” said Tesdahl.

Originally published on, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

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