Background: Physical strength is associated with improved health outcomes in children. Heavier children tend to have lower functional strength and mobility. Physical activity can increase children's strength, but it is unknown how different types of electronic media use impact physical strength.
Methods: Data from the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey (NNYFS) from children ages 6-15 were analyzed in this study. Regression models were conducted to determine if screen-based sedentary behaviors (television viewing time, computer/video game time) were associated with strength measures (grip, leg extensions, modified pull-ups, plank) while controlling for potential confounders including child age, sex, BMI z-score, and days per week with 60+ minutes of physical activity. Grip strength and leg extensions divided by body weight were analyzed to provide measures of relative strength together with pull-ups and plank, which require lifting the body.
Results: The results from the regression models showed the hypothesized inverse association between TV time and all strength measures. Computer time was only significantly inversely associated with the ability to do one or more pull-ups.
Conclusions: This study shows that television viewing, but not computer/videogames, is inversely associated with measures of child strength while controlling for child characteristics and physical activity. These findings suggest that "screen time" may not be a unified construct with respect to strength outcomes and that further exploration of the potential benefits of reducing television time on children's strength and related mobility is needed.