Diet, exercise and bullying

Nutrition and diet impacts on bullying behaviors.

As a Michigan State University Extension educator, keeping abreast of ongoing research in areas of improving health is vital to MSU Extension’s effectiveness. We know that childhood obesity is at a crucial level in our society. The American School Health Association Journal of School Health, says that over one third of American adolescents now overweight or obese.

We continue to emphasize eating at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, reducing obesity through portion control, and increasing daily physical activity. Research is available regarding children relating to under nutrition and its effects.

Child Development: Risk Factors for Adverse Outcomes in Developing Countries say it is possible that many of the effects of undernutrition on cognition are produced through decreased motivation and interaction. Animal studies show that malnutrition leads to changes in motivation, emotionality, and anxiety. According to a 1993 discussion paper called Nutritional Issues in Food Aid – Nutrition Policy, these effects may limit a child’s capacity to interact with his/her environment and to learn from these interactions, these effects have also been supported through research during more recent years as well.

One area that is expanding is research on the effects of bullying on diet and exercise from early childhood through adolescence.

According to Lawrence J. Buckfire, attorney at law, “student bullying suggests bullying can lead to childhood obesity.” The following statistics are the result of a study conducted at the University of Michigan by Lawrence J. Buckfire.

Out of 821 children between ages eight and 11, the following statistics resulted:

• 15 percent of the children were overweight
• 17 percent of the children were considered obese
• 25 percent of the children admitted to being bullied
• 45 percent of the mothers of the children involved in the study reported that their child had been bullied for his or her weight. Parents, teachers, and students were all included in the study.
• The odds of being bullied were 63 percent higher for children who were obese than children of a normal weight.

We have to remember that bullying has been around for a long time, unaddressed. I was bullied as early as kindergarten in the 1960’s. Further, my (now adult) children were bullied throughout stages of schooling from primary school through high school.

To society’s’ advantage, in recent years, legislators, educators, and researchers are actively and openly addressing bullying and its physical, as well as psychological effects on youths, families, and communities.

As we continue to address this vital area of victimizing and victimization, we will explore expansion of how we can improve the health and wellbeing of youths and families in our communities.

Thankfully, bullying and correlations to physical activity and eating habits from childhood through adulthood is something that is acknowledged and actively continuing to be explored. It’s all relevant.

MSU Extension will continue with the mission to improve nutrition and physical activity and manage disease through preventative measures, including self-image of youths through education and participation.

Explore the following references and resource links for further information on bullying and obesity:

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