Augusta, Ga. - Less than an hour of daily exercise reduces depressive symptoms and improves self esteem in overweight children, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.
The study included 207 overweight, typically sedentary children ages 7-11 randomly assigned to either continue their sedentary lifestyle or exercise for 20 or 40 minutes every day after school for an average of 13 weeks. The 40-minute group sustained the most psychological benefit, according to research published online in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.
The MCG researchers were the first to demonstrate this dose response benefit of exercise meaning the more the better on depressive symptoms and self worth in these children. Benefits came despite the fact that the children's weight did not change much over the three months.
"Just by getting up and doing something aerobic, they were changing how they felt about themselves," says the study's first author, Dr. Karen Petty, postdoctoral fellow in psychology at MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute. "Hopefully these children are taking home the idea: Hey, when we do this stuff, we feel better."
The study focused on fun activities that increase heart rate, such as running games, jumping rope, basketball and soccer and typically included short bursts of intense activity interspersed with lower-activity recovery periods.
Participants in these activities reported feeling better about themselves. "If you feel better about yourself, maybe you are going to do better in school, maybe you are going to pay more attention," Dr. Petty says. MCG is compiling a mound of evidence that supports the case that these go hand-in-hand.
Dr. Petty works with Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute, who has shown that regular physical activity not only improves fitness and reduces fatness but also reduces insulin resistance (diabetes risk), improves cognition
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia