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March 2001

Television Watching, Energy Intake, and Obesity in US Children: Results From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994

Author Affiliations

From the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York, Buffalo (Dr Crespo); Schools of Public Health (Dr Smit) and Medicine (Drs Bartlett and Andersen), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md; National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md (Dr Troiano); and the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Macera).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155(3):360-365. doi:10.1001/archpedi.155.3.360

Objectives  To examine the relationship between television watching, energy intake, physical activity, and obesity status in US boys and girls, aged 8 to 16 years.

Methods  We used a nationally representative cross-sectional survey with an in-person interview and a medical examination, which included measurements of height and weight, daily hours of television watching, weekly participation in physical activity, and a dietary interview. Between 1988 and 1994, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected data on 4069 children. Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic blacks were oversampled to produce reliable estimates for these groups.

Results  The prevalence of obesity is lowest among children watching 1 or fewer hours of television a day, and highest among those watching 4 or more hours of television a day. Girls engaged in less physical activity and consumed fewer joules per day than boys. A higher percentage of non-Hispanic white boys reported participating in physical activity 5 or more times per week than any other race/ethnic and sex group. Television watching was positively associated with obesity among girls, even after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, family income, weekly physical activity, and energy intake.

Conclusions  As the prevalence of overweight increases, the need to reduce sedentary behaviors and to promote a more active lifestyle becomes essential. Clinicians and public health interventionists should encourage active lifestyles to balance the energy intake of children.