Boys and girls who take part in physical activity with their best friend in the neighbourhood where they live have higher levels of physical activity, new research has found.
The study examined the extent to which the physical activity modelling and physical activity actions of best friends are associated with the physical activity of ten to 11-yr-old children.
Data was collected by the University of Bristol for 986 children, of whom 472 provided complete physical activity and best friend data. Participants identified their best friend within the school and answered how often they took part in physical activity with the friend and if the friend had encouraged them to be active.
Regression models were run separately for boys and girls and used to examine associations between child and best friend physical activity.
Dr Russ Jago, said: “With many young people not meeting current UK physical activity guidelines there is a need to identify new ways of making children more physically activity. “Our findings show that supporting physical activity among friendship groups and encouraging friends to be active together, particularly outside of school, may bring about important changes to children’s physical activity.”
The research found boys who have best friends who are physically active engage in greater amounts of physical activity. Girls who frequently take part in active play with their best friend achieve higher levels of physical activity than girls who do so less frequently.
Natasha Stewart, Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research proves the strength of buddy power – simply exercising with a best friend or having a friend who is a good exercise role model increases the chance of a child keeping fit and active. We know that kids who exercise during childhood are more likely to continue these good habits as they grow up – reducing their risk of heart and circulatory disease.
“We are currently faced with a generation of kids whose waistlines are expanding. This research shows that easy initiatives like encouraging your child to run around with their best friend could have a big impact on their health.”