School work, social situations, family challenges—young kids are faced with a great deal of pressure and perhaps lack the proper outlets to handle it. And as previous research has shown, stress and weight gain sometimes go hand in hand. A new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2017; 49 [3], 581–87) shows that exercise may help kids manage stress and prevent weight gain.

Parents of 325 children around 7 years of age provided information about the children’s stress and physical activity levels. The youngsters then completed a 20-meter shuffle test to measure fitness levels and underwent body mass index, skinfold and waist circumference assessments.

The researchers found that “children experiencing elevated school-related stress had lower body mass index, body fat, and waist circumferences if they had high fitness and physical activity levels, as compared with their less active and
fit peers.”

“Our findings indicate that policies aimed at reducing overweight and obesity should include the promotion of physical activity both inside and outside the school context,” the authors concluded. “Moreover, our findings highlight the importance of strengthening children’s capacities to cope successfully with school-related pressures.”

For more on this study, see the June Research column, “Exercise and Children: Better Brain Health, Less Obesity, Less Stress,” by Len Kravitz, PhD.