A new study has suggested that getting fit could help children learn self-control. Otherwise sedentary and overweight children who start exercising after school become fitter and as a result may be less likely to express their anger in aggressive ways such as slamming doors, yelling or hitting other children.

The lead researcher on the study, Dr. Catherine L. Davis of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, says that exercising could elevate mood and self-control and help children control their anger that way.
Although there's no evidence that overweight kids are more aggressive than their normal-weight peers, they are still more likely to be bullied or to bully others.

Knowing the positive effects of exercise on mood and hostility reduction in adults, the researchers set out to determine if it would have the same effect in overweight young people.

The study included 208 overweight, sedentary 7- to 11-year-old public school students to two groups: a no-exercise control group and 20 minutes of exercise daily, or 40 minutes of exercise for 10 to 15 weeks. Both exercise groups were bussed to and from the research gym, and spent 75 minutes there daily.

At the end of the study period, on the so-called Pediatric Anger Expression Scale, children in both exercise groups scored lower on the Anger Out and Anger Expression components while the children from the control group had no change in their scores.

Besides having positive effects on the mood and anger management, the exercise increased their fitness levels too.

The amount of time the exercise groups spent on a treadmill rose from an average of 485 seconds to 551 seconds, while for the control group treadmill time stayed about the same. The more a child's fitness increased, the greater their reduction in anger expression.

Other factors such as getting attention from the program staff, being punished for behaving aggressively while in the program or spending less time watching violent shows on TV could have influenced the fact the children in the exercise group showed reductions in anger expression.
However, the study showed that regular exercise improved overweight children's cognitive functioning, which could translate to better anger control.

To better understand the independent effects of physical activity, the researchers will conduct a 5-year, $3.6 million study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in which the control group will come to the research gym, but will also do arts and crafts and other activities that don't require them to sweat.