PE ClassThe research team surveyed 4th and 5th grade students (ages nine to 11) at the beginning of the study and again one year later. Each round of surveys included three questionnaires: one on health, activities, and emotional well-being; another about experiences with being teased during physical activities; and the last consisted of situational questions designed to determine whether the child had been bullied during physical activity and the effects of said bullying. Specifically, the third survey asked about being made fun of while playing a sport or exercising, not being picked for team sports by peers, and being called names during physical activities.

The results exhibited a novel finding: even healthy-weight children exhibit a decrease in physical activity when they are bullied—previous studies have established the same for overweight and obese children. Overweight and obese children also saw a decrease in health-related quality of life after being teased or bullied. Moreover, overweight or obese children who were teased reported poorer functional ability in physical, academic, and social pursuits.

These findings may encourage schools or youth organizations to adopt strong policies against teasing and bullying during physical activities.

“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,” concluded Chad Jensen, BYU psychology professor and lead study author.

This research is published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

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