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TV Time May Motivate Kids to Exercise

Using TV as a Reward for Walking Worked in Small Study of Obese Kids
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 19, 2005 -- Want kids to exercise more? You may want to use their fondness for TV to encourage them.

That strategy worked in a small study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity's annual scientific meeting, held in Vancouver, Canada.

TV viewing has been linked to childhood obesity, note the researchers. They included Gary Goldfield, PhD, of Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Canada.

Goldfield's team struck a bargain with kids about TV time and physical activity. All they needed were pedometers -- little devices that count steps taken and distance walked or run. By the way, pedometers aren't just for kids. In April, other researchers showed that pedometers can be good motivators for adults who don't like to exercise.

Walk to View

Goldfield's study included 29 obese children aged 8-12. For eight weeks, all of the kids wore pedometers.

Fourteen kids were told that they would earn an hour of TV-viewing time for every 400 counts on their pedometers. The other kids didn't get TV time as a reward for walking.

The results:

  • Overall physical activity rose 69% in the TV group, compared with 16% in the other group.
  • Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity rose 35% in the TV group and dropped 6% in the other group.

A trend toward better BMI (body mass index) was also seen in the TV group, the study shows.

Tube Time Dropped

TV time dropped for both groups. The drop was bigger in those who had to earn TV-viewing time, but not by much (34% vs. 24%).

The study was short and small. Still, the researchers say TV may be effective at motivating kids to be active.

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