Exercise helps overweight children reduce anger expression

November 24, 2008
Exercise helps overweight children reduce anger expression
Regular exercise seems to reduce anger expression in overweight but otherwise healthy children, Medical College of Georgia researchers say. According to Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist in the MCG School of Medicine, aerobic exercise may be an effective strategy to help overweight kids reduce anger expression and aggressive behavior. Credit: Phil Jones

Regular exercise seems to reduce anger expression in overweight but otherwise healthy children, researchers said.

The first published study on the topic looked at 208 typically sedentary 7- to 11-year-olds who participated in a 10-15 week afterschool aerobic exercise program or maintained their usual inactive routine. The Pediatric Anger Expression Scale, used to gauge common anger expressions such as slamming doors and hitting, was given before and after the program.

"Exercise had a significant impact on anger expression in children," said Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist in the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine. "This finding indicates that aerobic exercise may be an effective strategy to help overweight kids reduce anger expression and aggressive behavior."

The finding fits with evidence that exercise reduces depression and anxiety in children and with what's considered common knowledge that exercise helps adults manage anger, she said.

It also gives parents and other caregivers another reason to get and keep children moving. "I think it's reasonable to encourage children to exercise for a lot of good reasons," said Dr. Davis whose research on overweight children has shown regular physical activity not only reduces fatness but improves cognition and reduces insulin resistance – which can lead to diabetes.

"I think if teachers could see that exercise helps kids control their behavior and get along, they would be the top proponents of physical activity for kids," said Dr. Davis, noting that other studies suggests overweight children are more likely to be bullies and to be bullied. High levels of anger and hostility have been associated with delinquency in children, cardiovascular disease in adults and metabolic syndrome - which can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes - in adolescents.

The new finding, published in the November issue of Pediatric Exercise Science, appears to apply to overweight children generally, regardless of factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic status or even fitness or fatness levels, the researchers wrote. In fact, even though all participants in the exercise portion lost a significant amount of weight, they remained overweight at the study's conclusion.

With help from a five-year $3.6 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Dr. Davis already is looking to see if the finding holds in a similar group of children, who are part of a study on the impact of exercise on cognition. The goal is to determine if it was the exercise or participation in an after-school program that made the difference.

Extra attention from adults and time away from usual routines that could include disagreements with siblings and watching violence on television definitely could have a psychological impact. "With a psychological outcome like cognition or anger control, positive interaction with adults can make a big difference," Dr. Davis said.

In the published study, only the exercising children came to MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute after school. In the new study, both groups are coming to the institute, with non-exercisers enjoying arts, crafts and games. "We are trying to make it so the only difference is exercise," said Dr. Davis.

Source: Medical College of Georgia

Explore further: Why your diet makes you angry

Related Stories

Why your diet makes you angry

April 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Did you just decide to eat an apple instead of a candy bar? You should be feeling happy because you’re doing what’s good for you, right? Well, according to researchers at UC San Diego and Northwestern ...

Fighting over fatigue

November 10, 2015

In the summer of 1989, Leonard Jason fell ill with the worst sore throat of his life. He couldn't shake it. As the leaves turned red and gold that fall, his energy and weight dropped dramatically, eventually forcing him to ...

Tackling child abuse in Africa with research and fun

May 26, 2015

In one of South Africa's poorest areas, an imaginative new parenting programme is tackling the physical and emotional abuse of children. Oxford University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, travelled to the villages ...

The genetics of aggression and self-control

May 7, 2014

Everyone knows someone with a quick temper – it might even be you. And while scientists have known for decades that aggression is hereditary, there is another biological layer to those angry flare-ups: self-control.

Recommended for you

Want to exercise more? Get yourself some competition

October 27, 2016

Imagine you're a CEO trying to get your employees to exercise. Most health incentive programs have an array of tools—pamphlets, websites, pedometers, coaching, team activities, step challenges, money—but what actually ...

Sleep loss tied to changes of the gut microbiota in humans

October 25, 2016

Results from a new clinical study conducted at Uppsala University suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health. The new ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.