Watching TV and other sedentary behaviors linked to higher concentration of belly fat
Watching television is associated with higher levels of abdominal fat, even among individuals who exercise regularly and maintain a normal weight, a recent University of Minnesota study found.
People who have higher levels of abdominal fat, regardless of body weight, are at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes.
“Individuals in our study who watched a lot of television had a greater amount of fat in their abdomen, including the fat in and around their organs, as compared to those who reported watching little or no television,” said lead author Kara Whitaker, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow in the School of Public Health.
Whitaker and a team of researchers examined adipose tissue (fat) and liver attenuation in middle-aged African-American and Caucasian men and women from the CARDIA study. They analyzed how that related to sedentary, or sitting, behaviors, like watching television.
Watching television positively associated with fat deposits. In fact, for every added hour and a half spent watching television, abdominal fat increased by about 3 cubic cm.
The results are published in the current issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
“Our study provides evidence that individuals who do a lot of sitting, particularly while watching television, have more abdominal fat and therefore may be at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes,” Whitaker said.
Currently, there are no national guidelines on sedentary behaviors, like watching TV.
“The next step would be to determine what amount of sedentary time puts people at the greatest risk and offer suggestions for ways to decrease the amount of time spent sitting,” Whitaker said.
The team also plans to examine sedentary behaviors in relation to chronic disease risk factors, looking at the same cohort study, said Mark Pereira, Ph.D., senior author on the study. Pereira is a professor in the School of Public Health.
“Additionally, we are conducting experimental studies to test strategies for reducing sedentary behavior, by replacing it with standing and light activity, in adults who spend most of their days sitting,” Pereira said.
The research team suggests reducing the amount of time spent watching television, or alternately, being more active while watching television. Possible activities include using an exercise bike or moving around during commercial breaks.
Collaborators on the study include: Andrew Odegaard, Ph.D., M.P.H., David Jacobs, Ph.D., Stephen Sidney, M.D., M.P.H., and Mark Pereira, Ph.D.