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Are you hoping your children will start exercising and moving more? Just get them some friends who are more active than they are if you want them to get in shape, a new study advises! Kids in after-school activities with others who jump around a lot also boost their own physical activity levels there is such a thing as positive peer pressure, after all. Previous studies have shown similar things happen to teens and adults humans, apparently, love to hang out with people of the same fitness and activity levels. This could be why weight loss is easier if you go to the gym than if you're trying to do aerobics at home with the help of YouTube.

In this study of elementary school children, researchers Vanderbilt University in Nashville looked at 81 racially-diverse public school kids between the ages of five and 12, who went to after-school activities at either or two locations the team followed. That's one pretty small sample, isn't it? Still, the team spent a lot of time studying these kids the interaction between their friendships and physical activity levels over three weeks. The children were asked questions about which peers they liked to spend time with during each visit, and they were handed accelerometers to measure their activity levels. Their conclusion was quite amazing. Kids didn't form friendships based on the activity levels of other children, but they did adapt their own activity levels to those of the peers they chose to hang out with. Spending time with someone who loved running around resulted in more exercise, while couch potatoes encourage more active kids to slow down.

This could change the strategy of those who are trying to reduce childhood obesity rates. Lead researcher Sabina Gesell told Reuters Health: "Kids are constantly adjusting their activity levels to match their friends. Some kids' activity levels got pulled up by their immediate friends, and others got pulled down. The after-school programs have had this long history of keeping kids safe and keeping them off the street. Now the thought is, what if we use this ideal arena to improve health?"

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