OBJECTIVES:

To assess the effects of simulated ostracism on children’s physical activity behavior, time allocated to sedentary behavior, and liking of physical activity.

METHODS:

Nineteen children (11 boys, 8 girls; age 11.7 ± 1.3 years) completed 2 experimental sessions. During each session, children played a virtual ball-toss computer game (Cyberball). In one session, children played Cyberball and experienced ostracism; in the other session, they were exposed to the inclusion/control condition. The order of conditions was randomized. After playing Cyberball, children were taken to a gymnasium where they had free-choice access to physical and sedentary activities for 30 minutes. Children could participate in the activities, in any pattern they chose, for the entire period. Physical activity during the free-choice period was assessed via accelerometery and sedentary time via observation. Finally, children reported their liking for the activity session via a visual analog scale.

RESULTS:

Children accumulated 22% fewer (P < .01) accelerometer counts and 41% more (P < .04) minutes of sedentary activity in the ostracized condition (8.9e+4 ± 4.5e+4 counts, 11.1 ± 9.3 minutes) relative to the included condition (10.8e+4 ± 4.7e+4 counts, 7.9 ± 7.9 minutes). Liking (8.8 ± 1.5 cm included, 8.1 ± 1.9 cm ostracized) of the activity sessions was not significantly different (P > .10) between conditions.

CONCLUSIONS:

Simulated ostracism elicits decreased subsequent physical activity participation in children. Ostracism may contribute to children’s lack of physical activity.

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