Researchers have previously suggested that adolescent obesity is a function of a sedentary — or inactive — lifestyle. A new study finds weekends are especially low periods of physical activity for teenagers with sedentary behaviors, as they appear to devote more time to sitting in front of a TV or computer screen.
The new research looked at the lifestyle and behavior patterns of 3,278 teens throughout Europe, and the availability of TVs and computers in the adolescents’ bedrooms. Teenagers in the study ranged from 12 to 18 years old.
The teenagers indicated the amount of time they spent: in front of the television, computer and games consoles; connected to the Internet; and studying (outside of regular school hours). The researchers also measured whether teens watched more than 2 hours per day of TV, and where computers, game consoles and televisions were located in each household.
The researchers, led by Juan P. Rey-López, found that during the week, one-third of teenagers said they watched more than two hours of television per day. But on the weekends, this figure exceeded more than 60 percent of teens.
“Our findings support the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics not to put televisions in teenagers’ bedrooms, in order to reduce the amount of time they spend watching the television,” says Rey-López.
“Having a games console or television in the bedroom triples the risk of exceeding the health recommendations to not spend more than two hours per day watching television.
“However, having a computer in the bedroom reduces the risk of excessive television watching,” the researcher explained.
People who are less active and have more sedentary behaviors have been linked to having greater health concerns in previous studies. Recent research suggests there is a strong dose-dependent association in adults between the number of hours spent watching television and their cardiometabolic health — the more television adults watch, the lower their cardiometabolic health.
Previous research has also indicated that excessive exposure to media may contribute to teenage depression.
The authors in the current study also observed significant differences between the sexes in terms of the amount of time spent on sedentary activities.
Adolescent girls are more sedentary in terms of the amount of time spent studying and surfing the Internet, while boys spend more time playing electronic games.
The teens were pulled from 10 diverse European cities, including Athens and Heraklion in Greece, Dortmund in Germany, Ghent in Belgium, Lille in France, Pécs in Hungary, Rome in Italy, Stockholm in Sweden, Vienna in Austria, and Zaragoza in Spain. The study was a part of the larger, ongoing European HELENA study.
The current study’s results were published in the journal Preventive Medicine.