A new American study shows that a playful exercise program with attentive adults helps improve the quality of life, mood and self-esteem of overweight and obese children.
Sports and exercise are not just about losing weight, improving fitness or increasing muscle mass. When they are practiced regularly in a benevolent and playful environment, they also contribute significantly to improving psychological well-being.
This is the conclusion of a new study conducted by researchers at the Medical College of Georgia in the United States and published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine. According to its authors, the practice of a regular physical program with clear rules and activities, and supervised by attentive adults, greatly contributes to improving the quality of life, the mood and the self-esteem of overweight and obese children. .
“The message to me is yes, exercise has a lot of wonderful benefits, but that’s partly because you’re participating in a caring adult-led program,” says Dr. Catherine Davis, Clinical Psychologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute of the GCM and author of the study.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers followed 175 children aged 8 to 11, who were overweight or obese and did not exercise. 10% of them also had symptoms of depression.
The children participated for one year either in a playful aerobic exercise program or in a sedentary extracurricular program where they played board games and did artistic activities.
In the exercise program, the supervising adult had a fun aerobic activity of 40 minutes a day depending on the interests and abilities of the children. Thus, rather than running on a treadmill, they were offered entertaining exercises to maintain their heart rate. Those who averaged more than 150 beats per minute during the exercise were rewarded.
In the other group, children participated in instructor-led activities such as board games, puzzles, arts, and music. They were also rewarded for their participation and good behavior. Children were free to talk to each other as long as they did not mind.
The study authors found that although the exercise program had the additional benefits of reducing body mass index (BMI) and improving children’s fitness, both groups had helped to improve the mood and quality of life of the young participants. The arts program may have even given children more time to talk to each other and develop friendships with little competitive pressure.
The fact that both programs provided children with well-being led the researchers to conclude that some of the benefits of physical exercise stemmed from the regular ability to be with caring and caring adults who provide a structure of behavior. This pleasure is also the result of children having fun interacting with each other, sharing snacks and other activities while spending less time watching television.
“Exercise is very well shown to improve mood, but I think we need to look at the exercise in the context in which it occurs, so that the social context also counts,” concludes Dr. Davis.