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Relationships between media use, body fatness and physical activity in children and youth: a meta-analysis

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To review the empirical evidence of associations between television (TV) viewing, video/computer game use and (a) body fatness, and (b) physical activity.

DESIGN: Meta-analysis.

METHOD: Published English-language studies were located from computerized literature searches, bibliographies of primary studies and narrative reviews, and manual searches of personal archives. Included studies presented at least one empirical association between TV viewing, video/computer game use and body fatness or physical activity among samples of children and youth aged 3–18 y.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: The mean sample-weighted corrected effect size (Pearson r).

RESULTS: Based on data from 52 independent samples, the mean sample-weighted effect size between TV viewing and body fatness was 0.066 (95% CI=0.056–0.078; total N=44 707). The sample-weighted fully corrected effect size was 0.084. Based on data from six independent samples, the mean sample-weighted effect size between video/computer game use and body fatness was 0.070 (95% CI=−0.048 to 0.188; total N=1722). The sample-weighted fully corrected effect size was 0.128. Based on data from 39 independent samples, the mean sample-weighted effect size between TV viewing and physical activity was −0.096 (95% CI=−0.080 to −0.112; total N=141 505). The sample-weighted fully corrected effect size was −0.129. Based on data from 10 independent samples, the mean sample-weighted effect size between video/computer game use and physical activity was −0.104 (95% CI=−0.080 to −0.128; total N=119 942). The sample-weighted fully corrected effect size was −0.141.

CONCLUSION: A statistically significant relationship exists between TV viewing and body fatness among children and youth although it is likely to be too small to be of substantial clinical relevance. The relationship between TV viewing and physical activity is small but negative. The strength of these relationships remains virtually unchanged even after correcting for common sources of bias known to impact study outcomes. While the total amount of time per day engaged in sedentary behavior is inevitably prohibitive of physical activity, media-based inactivity may be unfairly implicated in recent epidemiologic trends of overweight and obesity among children and youth. Relationships between sedentary behavior and health are unlikely to be explained using single markers of inactivity, such as TV viewing or video/computer game use.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grant PG/2000124 from the British Heart Foundation.

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Marshall, S., Biddle, S., Gorely, T. et al. Relationships between media use, body fatness and physical activity in children and youth: a meta-analysis. Int J Obes 28, 1238–1246 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0802706

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Keywords

  • television
  • media use
  • fatness
  • children and youth
  • meta-analysis

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