Less TV May Help Obese Kids Lose Weight
March 21, 2000 (New York) -- Going on a strict television and video game
diet may help obese children shed excess weight, according to new research in
the March issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
In the two-year study of 90 obese 8- to 12-year-olds and some of their
parents, those participants who reduced the time they spent being inactive lost
as much weight as those who increased their physical activity.
In the U.S. at least one child in five is overweight, and over the last two
decades, this number has increased by more than 50%, according to recent
"The take-home message is that parent's need to help their children
reduce [inactive] behaviors such as by budgeting television time in
advance," says study co-author Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, of the departments
of pediatrics and social and preventive medicine at the University of Buffalo
at the State University of New York. "Parents should also be good role
models and provide lots of alternatives to children such as outdoor
activities," he tells WebMD. Epstein suggests that all children engage in
60 minutes of physical activity each day.
To arrive at their findings, Epstein and colleagues placed the children and
some of their parents in one of four groups that had varying levels of either
fewer sedentary -- or inactive -- behaviors or more physical activity.
Participants were also put on comprehensive weight loss plans involving diet,
education, and positive reinforcement techniques.
All participants completed physical activity questionnaires and were
monitored for their body composition and fitness levels at six months, one
year, and two years after the beginning of the study.
Overall, there was no difference in the percentages of weight loss among
participants in any of the four groups. What's more, all participants showed
decreases in body fat and increases in the time spent being physically active,
"Television, along with other sedentary behaviors, may contribute to
obesity by competing with more physically active behaviors, as well as setting
the occasion for eating," he writes. "The results provide experimental
evidence that reducing access to sedentary behaviors is an alternative to
targeting physical activity in the treatment of childhood obesity."
Unfortunately, "most people have living rooms with huge television sets,
hundreds of channels, a state-of-the art sound system, a VCR or a DVD player
that are set up to encourage physical inactivity while any exercise equipment
is usually hidden in the basement," Epstein says.
Arthur Frank, MD, medical director for the weight management program at
George Washington University in Washington, D.C., reviewed the study for WebMD.
He says the most important point to take from it is that decreasing inactive
behavior and increasing active behavior are the keys to staying fit. Adults
have to play an active role in their children's health. Children, particularly
overweight children, need good role models, he says.
"One solution is to take an ax to the television, but the trouble is
that most adults don't want to do that and you can't say to kids 'no TV, for
you, but I can watch as much as I want,'" Frank tells WebMD.
"In order to get kids to change their behaviors, adults must change
their behaviors as well. You can't just signal out one person; it's a family