Moderate physical activity has been shown to improve the mental well-being of overweight children. This study was conducted in Ottawa, Canada funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. It was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. The study looked at the psychological health of 30 overweight children from 12-17 years old. The researchers followed the participants for 10 weeks as they exercised in laboratory settings twice each week. The study had the children continuing to eat the same foods and calorie contents that they did before the study.
While the results showed that the participants did not lose weight, they did improve their general health. There was a marked improvement of aerobic fitness, but the most remarkable result was in their minds. The participants improved their academic performance and they had improved self-esteem. It showed that moderate exercise can cause a better body image, regardless of the body form actually changing.
Previous studies had found that body image only changes from actual weight loss. The researchers added that, But the nice thing about this study was that there were psychological benefits accrued by overweight teens in the absence of weight loss or very minimal changes in body fat. The take-home message [is] that you can throw away the scale, and as long as you’re active about two hours a week, … you can derive psychological benefits, improvements in body image, improvements in perceived social and academic functioning, even if you don’t lose any weight.”
The participants had very sedentary lifestyles previous to the study. The study will continue as they track the participants to see if they maintain the physical activity after the testing has finished.