Benefits of exercise in overweight children

 Exercise has a positive effect on depression and improves self-esteem, according to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia.

First, the details.

  • 207 overweight, sedentary children, 7 to 11 years old were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
    • 20 minutes/day aerobic exercise
    • 40 minutes/day aerobic exercise
    • Continue their sedentary lifestyle
  • Children completed the Reynolds Child Depression Scale and Self-Perception Profile for Children at the start and end of the study.
  • The youngsters were not actually clinically depressed, scoring 4% above the cutoff for depression on the depression scale.

And, the results.

  • 40 minutes of exercise was associated with significantly greater benefit in depressive symptoms and self-esteem vs no exercise.
  • 20 minutes of exercise was not significantly better than no exercise.
  • After accounting for race, self-worth scores improved only for white children, not black children.
  • There was some evidence that greater self-worth had a positive effect on depressive symptoms.

The bottom line?
“This study shows dose-response benefits of exercise on depressive symptoms and self-worth in children,” the authors concluded.

The researchers think that the apparent lack of improved self-worth among black children might be related to notions of self-worth that vary by culture. Although more research will be needed to confirm this view.

For background, here are highlights from a 2005 US Department of Health and Human Services survey of overweight and physical activity among children. Physical activity was defined as at least 20 minutes duration with sweating and hard breathing.

  • Overall, 71% of 10- to 17-year-olds exercise at least 3 times per week.
  • Males are more likely to exercise than girls (77% vs 66%).
  • White and multiracial children have equal rates of regular physical activity (74%).
  • Black children: 69%
  • Hispanic children: 63%.
  • Other racial and ethnic origins: 76%.
  • Physical activity decreases with increased age.

3/20/09 14:58 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.