Parents reading this may not be surprised by the latest findings from a team of researchers at the Georgia School of Medicine. The first-of-its-kind study published in the November issue of Pediatric Exercise Science, a professional journal dedicated to increasing our understanding of exercise during childhood, finds that aerobic activity seems to have a significant impact on anger management for kids.
In fact, aerobic exercise may be an effective strategy to help overweight kids (maybe even children at any weight) to burn off anger or aggression in a safe, healthy, and rather effective way. Earlier research has shown that exercise helps to reduce depression or anxiety in children. Most of us have long since come to recognize that exercise can also help older folks manage stress and burn off bad moods.
The latest research focused on a structured aerobic exercise program as it related to anger expression in healthy overweight kids. The scientists looked at 208 usually sedentary 7- to 11-year-olds who took part in a 10-15 week after-school aerobic exercise program.
The subjects, overweight but otherwise healthy, were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise program or instructed to maintain their normal inactive routine. Surveys were also taken on anger expression at the start and end of the testing using the Pediatric Anger Expression Scale that gauges common expressions of anger like slamming doors and hitting.
The researchers found that the Anger Out and Anger Expression scores were lower for the aerobic exercise group at the end of the testing period.
“Exercise had a significant impact on anger expression in children,” said Dr. Catherine Davis, a 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 applies across the board — without regard for gender, race, socioeconomic status and even fitness level. This serves as yet another reason for parents, caregivers and teachers to get kids up and moving. Regular exercise seems not only to help with weight and anger issues, but it also may improve cognition and reduce insulin resistance.
This latest research supports earlier work by Dr. Davis that suggested aerobic exercise also helps thinking skills and reduces insulin resistance, a condition known to be a precursor to diabetes. And while the increase in activity did help the subjects of the study lose some weight, all of them continued to be classified as overwight at the end of the research.
Supported by a five year $3.6 million grant by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Dr. Davis is looking to see if this exercise finding holds for a similar group of kids who are being studied for the impact of exercise on cognition.
Scientists want to be sure the exercise, and not other things like participation in a special after-school problem, caused the improvement in the anger scores. Changes in their routine, time with parents and away from fight-provoking siblings, violent TV and video games could also have had a positive impact on anger management for kids.