- NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Encouraging obese children to reduce the amount of time they
spend being inactive-- such as watching TV or playing video games -- is
an important step in helping them to lose weight, according to researchers.
- ``We spend a lot of time being sedentary, and anything
that families can do to reduce that sedentary time will probably have an
effect,'' said study lead author Dr. Leonard H. Epstein, of the department
of psychology and social and preventive medicine at the University of Buffalo,
State University of New York.
- Over a 2-year period, Epstein and his team placed all
the members of 90 families with obese children between the ages of 8 and
12 -- and in some cases obese parents -- on a comprehensive weight-loss
program involving diet, educational material, therapy, fitness testing,
and positive reinforcement techniques.
- The families were randomly divided into four groups with
varying target levels of increasing active behavior versus reducing sedentary
behavior. All participants completed physical activity questionnaires,
and were monitored for their body composition and fitness levels at 6,
12 and 24 months after the beginning of the study.
- According to the report, published in the March issue
of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, there was no difference
in percentages of weight loss or time spent being active between any of
the four groups, with all participants registering significant decreases
in body fat, and increases in the time they spent being active and their
capacity to engage in physical work.
- Epstein and his colleagues conclude that specifically
reducing sedentary behavior had as beneficial an effect on treating obesity
in these kids as specifically increasing physical activity.
- In an interview with Reuters Health, Epstein noted that
the results increased options in the treatment for obesity in children.
``We found that our approach is equally effective to a more traditional
aerobic approach,'' he said. ``For practitioners, this may be an alternative
approach to help obese kids.''
- Epstein also suggested that parents could help their
children by looking at ways they could change their familiar home setting,
which may be encouraging inactivity. ``Rearranging the environment so there's
not as much access to sedentary things is one consideration,'' he said.
``When you walk into a house, there's probably a very attractive wide-screen
TV attached to a dish with 100 channels and a VCR and a new DVD player
and very soft chairs -- and if there's any exercise equipment, it's probably
out of the way in the basement.''
- He added that as with any learned behavior, children
will choose activities by example. ``Parents could model more active behavior,''
he noted. ``Some of the kid's TV watching is probably a socialization result
of the parents' habits. Parents can, for example, have a 'turn-off-the-TV-day,'
and parents should become much more informed about how much TV and computer
games their kids are using.''
- He pointed out, however, that simply turning off the
TV is only the first step. ``Reducing access is not enough if you don't
at the same time ensure that there are reasonable alternatives. If you
turn off the TV and the kid's only available alternative activity is to
listen to the radio then you haven't really done much.''
- SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
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