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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, February 5, 2007

Turning off the TV won't make kids more active

Cutting down on how much television adolescents watch doesn't necessarily translate into more physical activity, Harvard researchers report in today's issue of Pediatrics.

"Kids have other activities that they do if they turn off the TV," said Dr. Matthew W. Gillman, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of an obesity prevention program at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. "They don't necessarily go out and play or join a sports team."

Researchers tracked 10,000 10- to 15-year-old boys and girls for four years, asking them to report their TV habits and physical activity levels. The results ruled out any major association between the two.

Programs that work on sedentary behaviors like TV watching and physical activity as separate, independent elements hold more promise for helping children avoid excess weight during adolescence, the authors concluded.

They noted that adolescents may gain weight if they watch a lot of television because of what they also do in front of the TV set. There's some evidence that kids who watch TV ads for unhealthy foods wind up eating more of them. Or they just snack while they watch.

"If we want to get the greatest bang for our buck in terms of interventions to prevent obesity, we're going to have to work on both TV and physical activity independently," Gillman said.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:00 AM
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