Adolescent physical activity and screen time: associations with the physical home environment

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2010 Nov 15;7:82. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-7-82.


Background: Previous research on the environment and physical activity has mostly focused on macro-scale environments, such as the neighborhood environment. There has been a paucity of research on the role of micro-scale and proximal environments, such as that of the home which may be particularly relevant for younger adolescents who have more limited independence and mobility. The purpose of this study was to describe associations between the home environment and adolescent physical activity, sedentary time, and screen time.

Methods: A total of 613 parent-adolescent dyads were included in these analyses from two ongoing cohort studies. Parents completed a Physical Activity and Media Inventory (PAMI) of their home environment. Adolescent participants (49% male, 14.5 ± 1.8 years) self-reported their participation in screen time behaviors and wore an ActiGraph accelerometer for one week to assess active and sedentary time.

Results: After adjusting for possible confounders, physical activity equipment density in the home was positively associated with accelerometer-measured physical activity (p < 0.01) among both males and females. Most of the PAMI-derived measures of screen media equipment in the home were positively associated with adolescent female's screen time behavior (p ≤ 0.03). In addition, the ratio of activity to media equipment was positively associated with physical activity (p = 0.04) in both males and females and negatively associated with screen time behavior for females (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: The home environment was associated with physical activity and screen time behavior in adolescents and differential environmental effects for males and females were observed. Additional research is warranted to more comprehensively assess the home environment and to identify obesogenic typologies of families so that early identification of at-risk families can lead to more informed, targeted intervention efforts.