Is television viewing a suitable marker of sedentary behavior in young people?

Ann Behav Med. 2009 Oct;38(2):147-53. doi: 10.1007/s12160-009-9136-1.


Background: Television (TV) viewing is a highly prevalent sedentary behavior in young people and has played a significant role in the assessment of sedentary behaviors. An important question to be addressed is to what extent TV viewing is a suitable indicator, or marker, of overall levels of sedentary behavior in children and adolescents. This has not yet been attempted in youth, but has already been attempted in Australian adults.

Purpose: This study was conducted to test whether TV viewing in UK teenagers is a marker of sedentary behavior more broadly and to see if the results mirror those of Australian adults.

Methods: Ecological momentary assessment time-use diaries were completed by 561 boys and 923 girls (mean age 14.67 years) in which weekday and weekend out-of-school time behaviors were recorded every 15 min.

Results: TV viewing was negatively associated with other leisure-time sedentary behaviors for both boys and girls for weekdays and weekends. Higher levels of TV viewing were associated with less time in other key sedentary behaviors, such as computer use in boys and motorized transport in girls.

Conclusions: TV viewing appears not to reflect additional time in other sedentary behaviors in British teenagers, in contrast to data from Australian women. Studies of sedentary behavior should encompass as wide a range of behaviors as possible.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Recreation / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television*
  • United Kingdom