Bullying: Its Effects On Physical Activity And Quality Of Life

Women's physical education exhibition in Herro...
Women’s physical education exhibition in Herron Gymnasium 1916 (Photo credit: Miami U. Libraries – Digital Collections)

Study examines effects of teasing on young children and exercise

In the January/February 2014 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology the results of a new study about teasing and bullying were published: Associations Between Teasing, Quality of Life, and Physical Activity Among Preadolescent Children. The research was conducted by: Chad D. Jensen, PhD, Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University; Christopher C. Cushing, PhD, Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University; and, Allison R. Elledge, MA, Clinical Child Psychology Program, University of Kansas.

Study’s parameters…

The researchers were aware that a number of previous studies had shown that bullied overweight children were often found to limit their amount of physical exercise and activity. Their goal then was to determine if bullied children of all body weights would react in a similar manner to being teased or bullied. According to MedicalXpress:

  • The study participants were 108 4th and 5th grade students
  • Participants included children overweight or obese, as well as children of normal weight 
  • The students attended elementary schools in the Midwest.
  • Participants completed three surveys at the beginning of the study and again one year later

Study’s findings…

Again MedicalXpress reports:

The first survey asked questions about problems with health and activities, emotional well-being, getting along with classmates and academic abilities. The second survey assessed teasing experiences during physical activity. The third survey asked specific situational questions to determine whether the student had been bullied during physical activity and the emotional effect it had. The questions explored experiences such as:

  • Being made fun of when playing sports or exercising. 
  • Not being chosen to be on a sports team or other children looking or acting upset when the child was placed on the team. 
  • Being called insulting names when playing sports or exercising. 
  • Study results showed a decrease in physical activity of healthy-weight students who are bullied, and a decrease in health-related quality of life for students who were overweight or obese who reported teasing in the first survey. 

How about you? Were you ever teased during PE class or not picked to play on a team? 

As we read about this study, we asked one of our associates what she thought of this study. To our surprise she immediately concurred that her experience in grammar school and high school included exactly being made fun of when she struggled to effectively do such activities like “jumping jacks” and ‘not being chosen to be on a sports team or other children looking or acting upset when she was placed on the team.’

She explained she worked her way through required high school physical education (PE) classes by agreeing to the “scorekeeper” for volleyball, basketball, and the like. And she added, of course, this meant she herself got very little physical exercise. She went on to college, but purposely delayed graduating until after she turned 21 and could not be forced to enroll in state required physical education classes. (Apparently the state can force a minor to take a required number of PE credits, but not an adult.) Her aversion to physical activity became part of her life and perhaps affected her quality of life. She admits she would never join a gym for fear of ridicule, but she stays in shape by walking and eating healthy. She feels she adapted to the treatment she received from her classmates.

Cottonwood Tucson understands the importance of physical exercise and treating the whole person

At Cottonwood Tucson’s, an Arizona inpatient holistic behavioral health treatment center and addiction rehab center, we appreciate the fact that physical activity is key in attaining physical and emotional balance and is also necessary for optimizing the brain’s ability to think well and produce a calm and happy mood.

In our addiction rehab treatment programs, we have found that exercise has been proven to increase the activity of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, the brain’s primary mood-regulating chemical messengers. A skillful exercise regime allows those who suffer from addictions and mood disorders to positively affect the biological component of mood and emotional difficulties.

Our recreational therapists help Cottonwood’s patients – even those with physical and medical limitations – develop an exercise regime that can trigger the release of chemicals that stimulate the growth of new brain tissue. And, just like exercise facilitates the growth of muscle tissue, aerobic activity – especially activity that involves complex and skillful physical coordination – can trigger neurogenesis, the growth of new brain tissue. Even playing games and solving puzzles can help to optimize this process – which is why we strive to incorporate mental and physical exercise in our Arizona drug rehab.

Treating the whole person – body, mind and spirit, is our focus. Physical exercise is vital; imagine being the child who grows up avoiding physical exercise and team sports because of teasing or bullying.

Lead author Dr. Jensen offers:“We hope our study will raise awareness that educators should consider bullying prevention during physical education and free play (recess) when kids may be discouraged from being physically active because of teasing experiences.”

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