Causes and remedies of sedentary behavior in children

child watching TV

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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way people live, especially children. As lockdowns were imposed around the world, they added sedentary times to children’s schedules. Sedentary behavior is defined as any waking behavior in a sitting or lying position that expends ≤1.5 metabolic equivalents of energy. It is a major health risk linked to high cholesterol, blood pressure and cardiovascular problems in children. Therefore, there is an urgent need to design strategies that can address this problem.

First, it is necessary to understand the underlying factors that correlate with sedentary behavior in children. This behavior is collectively influenced by personal, family, school and neighborhood factors. However, studies conducted in the past have only focused on a few isolated factors.

To this end, a research team led by Associate Professor Mohammad Javad Koohsari of the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, who was a junior researcher at Waseda University at the time of the study, conducted a study that identified the correlates of immobility and objectively assessed behaviors children in Japan. The team consisted of Prof. Kaori Ishii and Prof. Koichiro Oka from Waseda University, Prof. Tomoki Nakaya and Assoc. Prof. Tomoya Hanibuchi from Tohoku University, Assoc. Prof. Ai Shibata from Tsukuba University and Assoc. Prof. Gavin R. McCormack from the University of Calgary (Canada).

This study takes a deeper look at the sociocultural, geographic, and indoor/outdoor environmental contexts that contribute to such behavior. “Sedentary behaviors, such as watching TV or excessive computer use, are detrimental to children’s health and well-being. Still, this is a very common behavior among younger generations, especially with new technologies. Therefore, it is important to reduce this inactivity in children need of the hour. Understanding the correlates in different domains of sedentary behavior in children can help design effective interventions to reduce sedentary time in this vulnerable population,” explains Dr. Koohsari. The study was published online November 7, 2022 in Scientific Reports.

The team interviewed 343 children from Japan with an average age of 8.8 years. Twenty-two potential correlates were identified in five categories – parental characteristics, household environment, neighborhood, school environment, and school neighborhood. Of these, parental age, maternal educational level, presence of screen-based devices at home and in the child’s room, non-educational home computer use, and residential road safety were found to be strongly correlated with sedentary behavior in children.

The results indicated that parental characteristics played an important role in a child’s lifestyle at home. Maternal age and lower educational attainment were associated with less time spent by the child on homework and leisure activities. On the other hand, the age of the father was associated with the children spending more time on homework. In addition, parental support and shared activities helped reduce children’s sedentary time. This team found that educating parents about public health programs may help reduce their children’s sedentary behaviors.

In addition, the environments inside and outside the home also influence children’s behavior. Screen-based devices in the home, such as VCR/DVD players, video game consoles, and televisions (TVs), have been negatively associated with time spent on homework. Therefore, interventions are needed that encourage parents to remove personal televisions from their children’s bedrooms and educate children on the importance of limiting screen time.

Likewise, the safety of the outdoor environment can influence children’s behavior towards physical activity. A neighborhood that is considered safe for walking and biking can motivate children to spend time outdoors and be active. Traffic safety can also motivate parents to enable their children to be mobile independently instead of deciding to drive their own vehicle. To ensure this, neighborhoods should be made safer with improved traffic standards.

Domestic inactivity aside, much of the children’s sedentary time corresponded to their school days. To mitigate this, school-based interventions that reduce prolonged sitting in classrooms should be developed to reduce children’s overall sitting time.

Taken together, these results underscore the need for context-specific strategies that address the diverse sociocultural and urban correlates of sedentary behavior in children. “Sedentary behavior is an emerging risk factor for cardiometabolic health in children. The correlates of sedentary behavior in children identified in our study were highly subjective and varied across domains. Therefore, future studies and efforts to develop strategies to reduce this behavior need to examine the different domains and contexts that contribute to it,” concluded Dr. Koohsari.

More information:
Mohammad Javad Koohsari et al, Correlates of domain-specific sitting behavior and objectively assessed sitting time in elementary school children, Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-23410-7

Provided by Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

Citation: Being a Couch Potato is Risky Business: Causes and Remedies for Sedentary Behavior in Children (2022 November 14) Retrieved November 14, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-couch-potato- risky-business-remedies.html

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