Eric Storch, Ph.D., a UF assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UF's College of Medicine and the study's lead author said, "We found that as rates of peer victimization among overweight kids went up, rates of physical activity went down. When you speak to overweight kids, one of the things you often hear is just this. Kids are targeting them. Kids are picking on them. You're going to end up avoiding those types of situations. The problem clinically is if kids are avoiding PE class or playing sports because of fears of negative peer relationships, their health status is affected."
Storch and researchers from pediatrics, psychiatry and the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions studied 100 overweight or at-risk-for-being-overweight children between the ages of 8 and 18 to find out how bullying affected their exercise.
"When you think about it, it makes intuitive sense, when you consider the hallmark signs of depression - sadness, fatigue, lack of interest in things you used to like," Storch said. "When kids are having a tough time with peers, and struggling with depression, then this can translate to reduced rates of physical activity."
"Childhood is a time when we form many of our habits that we're going to hold over later," Storch said. "When one has multiple negative experiences that are centered around sports early on, this can often translate into adulthood with decreased involvement (in exercise)."