Keeping active could help improve wellbeing for overweight children

Children who are carrying extra weight have better emotional wellbeing and fewer problems getting along with their peers if they are physically active, according to findings from Child of the New Century.

What we asked you

We have been measuring your height and weight since you were three, and that information was used to find out your body mass index (BMI).

At age seven, we asked you to wear activity monitors for seven consecutive days. Researchers used the information from these monitors to find out how physically active you were. Your parents were also asked about your emotional and social wellbeing at this age. They answered questions on your behaviour, emotional issues, and social relationships.

They also took into account other factors that may affect your weight or wellbeing, such as ethnicity, your exact age, or whether you were living in poverty.

What the researchers found

Researchers from Edge Hill University and the University of Limerick discovered that overweight children who were less active had the most social and emotional problems at age 7. Children who were carrying excess weight, but who exercised more regularly, had similar social-emotional wellbeing to their peers who were at a healthy weight.

The levels of activity ranged from 43 minutes to 100 minutes a day for boys and 34 minutes to 81 minutes per day for girls.

Why this research is important

Childhood obesity has been rising in the UK over the past 40 years. Research using CNC has found that more than a third of young people are at an unhealthy weight.

There is strong evidence linking child overweight and inactivity with poor physical wellbeing. However, less is known about the influence it has on young people’s behaviour, emotions and social relationships.

The findings from this research highlight the benefits of physical activity to the emotional wellbeing and social behaviour of young people. The report recommended that screening for social and emotional issues in inactive children with a high BMI should be a priority.

Find out more about this research

The full scientific paper was published in the European Journal of Public Health in 2018.