Study: Screen time contributes to weight gain despite exercise

By Susie O’Brien and Katrina Stokes

Even a large amount of exercise does not cancel out “bum time” — periods spent in front of TVs and computers, according to researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The study of 144 active children found those who were normal weight spent an average of 140 minutes less a week on screens than those who were overweight. The two groups did almost exactly the same amount of exercise — more than 90 minutes a day.

Researcher Dr. Rachael Sharman also found children in teams, clubs, or formal exercise lessons were less likely than other kids to “trade off” physical activity for screen time.

Dr. Sharman said it was “not enough for children to do basketball or running.”

“It’s also clearly important to minimize children’s sedentary screen time as well,” she said.

“Hopefully, this will help parents who can’t understand why their kids do a lot of exercise and are still overweight,” she said.

The study’s findings were presented at the Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference in Cairns, Australia on Oct. 8. Another conference presenter, Professor Stuart Biddle, has also reported on the impact of sitting down for office-bound adults.

He told the conference yesterday that adults could undo the positive impact of physical exercise by sitting down at work all day.

Dr. Sharman said it wasn’t fully understood why sitting down was linked to obesity.

“It might be that children on screens are eating while they are watching,” she said.

“Or it might be a genuine metabolic response that involves your system slowing down.”

“I just think it’s better they’re exercising. I think they’re happier and it’s better to be out in the fresh air and sun,” she said.


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