Although research continues to emerge regarding the many mental and emotional benefits of exercise, much of it focuses only on adults. A recent study published in the November 2008 issue of Pediatric Exercise Science (2008; 20[4], 390–401) has determined that structured exercise may help reduce anger expression in healthy, overweight children.

The study on exercise and anger included 208 sedentary 7- to 11-year-olds who either participated in a 10- to 15-week afterschool cardiovascular exercise program or
remained inactive. The children were required to complete the Pediatric Anger Expression Scale prior to and upon completion of the intervention. The scale assesses anger expressions such as slamming doors and hitting. According to the study authors, there is a direct link between exercise and anger management. The study showed that the children involved in the cardiovascular exercise program reduced overall anger expression compared with the inactive group. “Exercise had a significant impact on anger
expression in children,” stated study author Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist in the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, in a press
release. “This finding indicates that [cardiovascular] exercise may be an effective strategy to help overweight
kids reduce anger expression and aggressive behavior.”

IDEA member and kids’ fitness advocate Sam Upton believes that the commitment to regular exercise and anger management must become a family affair. He says that change starts at home with gradual modifications
to the weekly routine. Instead of 3 hours of television per day, Upton suggests limiting tube time to 4 hours per week. Upton also advises that the family eat meals together, and not in front of the TV. Eating while watching television “only leads to an unfocused, speedy and distracted meal, which leads to the never-ending feeling of not being satiated,” he says. Upton has found that parents who are active produce active kids. “Get outside,” he suggests. “It’s amazing what you can do with just a basketball, football, Frisbee® or soccer ball.” But he also urges parents to be supportive of their children without being overbearing and demanding. “Among other things, kids’ aggression comes from immense pressure from parents, lack of self-worth and lack of purpose.”

Check out the following resources to learn more about how to improve kids’ fitness:

“Kids in Motion Stay in Motion,” by Alexandra Williams, MA, February 2008 IDEA Fitness Journal

“Training Kids and Adolescents,” by Natalie Digate Muth, MPH, May 2006 IDEA Fitness Journal