Obesity Tied to TV Binge Watching

Binging on TV as a young adult is linked to greater odds of having a bigger waist.

Binging on TV as a young adult is linked to greater odds of having a bigger waist.

Over a 15-year study starting in 1990, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers asked 3269 individuals how many hours per day they watched TV on average.

The participants’ physical activity score was based on intensity level and the number of months spent doing 13 different activities of heavy and moderate intensity in the last year. The researchers also considered diet, education levels, family income, alcohol use, and smoking status.

They found that the younger adults tended to watch more TV at baseline than the older study participants. Both TV viewing time and physical activity decreased over the study period, while body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference grew.

Participants who watched TV at least 4 hours a day were considered heavy TV watchers by the researchers.

Those who watched more TV tended to have lower diet and physical activity scores. Participants who were male, African-American (versus white), had less education, smaller family income, and drank alcohol or smoked at least 7 times a week were also more likely to watch TV longer.

The more time 30-year-olds spent watching TV, the more likely they were to be obese 5 years later compared with those who spent less time in front of the TV, the researchers found.

“Television viewing and obesity are both highly prevalent in many populations around the world. This means that even small reductions in television viewing could lead to vast public health improvements,” stated lead study author Anthony Fabio, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health, in a press release. “…The biggest bang for the buck would be in targeting young adults for interventions to reduce television viewing. Healthy lifestyle behaviors should start at early ages.”