Ostracism and Physical Activity

Pediatrics published research on a small study of 19 children (average age 11.7 years old) to assess the effects of simulated ostracism on children’s physical activity behavior, time allocated to sedentary behavior, and liking of physical activity. In the first experimental session, children played a virtual game where they were exposed to ostracism followed by a 30 minute open gym period where they could choose physical or sedentary activities. In the second experimental session, the children played a virtual game where they were included followed again by the 30 minute free play gym time. The results indicated the following:

  •  the children accumulated 22% fewer accelerometer counts and 41% more minutes of sedentary activity in the ostracized condition.
  • liking of the activity sessions was not significantly different between the ostracized or included conditions. 

The researchers concluded that ostracism may add to a child’s lack of physical activity.

Not sure we needed a research study to see what many of us observe but it is a very interesting way to try to determine that ostracism is causing a decrease in physical activity levels of children.  If children have deficits in motor skills they have trouble participating in physical games.  Since many childhood games include physical activity they may be ostracized or choose not to participate due to their limitations.  As a result of this ostracism, they may then participate less. 

Perhaps occasionally applying a more universal design approach to teaching motor skills in the younger years would help to decrease ostracism of children.  Here are three suggestions:

  • try playing cooperative games or games with no winners and losers.  
  • sometimes modify the rules so that all children can succeed.  
  • change the size of the playing field
  • provide alternative equipment to increase the success of all the children.      

Reference:  Jacob E. Barkley,Sarah-Jeanne Salvy,and James N. Roemmich. The Effect of Simulated Ostracism on Physical Activity Behavior in Children. Pediatrics 2012; 129:3 e659-e666; published ahead of print February 6, 2012, doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0496