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Study suggests TV watching lowers physical activity

Boston -- A study of low-income housing residents has documented that the more television people say they watched, the less active they were, researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and colleagues report.

The findings of television's effects on physical activity are the first to be based on objective measurements using pedometers, rather than the study subjects' memories of their physical activity, say the researchers. The study will be published online by the American Journal of Public Health on July 27 and later in the journal's September 2006 issue.

"Clearly the more time a person spends watching television the less time they have to be physically active, and in many lower income communities, other factors might have influenced the study participants' decisions to spend time watching television," said the paper's lead author, Gary Bennett, PhD, of Dana-Farber's Center for Community-Based Research and the Harvard School of Public Health.

These factors may include fear of street crime and poor maintenance of parks and playground equipment, which create barriers to outdoor activities. Older people were particularly prone to staying indoors and watching television, which reflects their increasing isolation in society today, Bennett said.

The study involved 486 low-income housing residents in Boston. The study participants tended to be black or Hispanic, older, and female. Two-thirds were overweight or obese, 37 percent had less than a high-school education.

To avoid the potential inaccuracies associated with self-reported physical activity, the researchers arranged to have the study participants wear pedometers during their waking hours to count the number of steps they took every day for five days. The pedometers were "blinded" to prevent the participants from knowing how many steps they had taken and possibly altering their normal patterns of activity. The participants also reported the number of hours they
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Contact: Janet Haley Dubow
janet_haley@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-4090
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
27-Jul-2006


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