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February 18, 2010  


Brescia professor involved in research that documents factors contributing to the screen-related sedentary behaviors of children

In an article published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in January, Dr. Leonard Piché, co-author and a professor of Foods & Nutrition at Brescia University College, reported findings from research that indicate that factors such as leisure-time computer use and television viewing contribute significantly to childhood sedentary behavior.

This study is the first of its kind to quantitatively document factors such as children’s attitudes, social influences, and intentions regarding screen-related behaviors among Canadian children, and the research has been documented in three published articles. The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The team was led by Dr. Meizi He of the Department of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Dr. Stewart Harris at the Schulich School of Medicine at The University of Western Ontario, with Leonard Piché, and Charlene Beynon, director of the Public Health Research Education and Development Program (PHRED) with the Middlesex London Health Unit. They surveyed more than 500 pairs of Grades 5 and 6 students, their parents, their classroom teachers, and school principals in London. They found that about 75 per cent of children surveyed spend more than the Canadian Pediatric Society’s recommended maximum of two hours per day sitting and viewing screens.

Over a one-week period, children spent an average of more than three hours per day engaged in screen-related activities such as playing video games, watching television, and leisure-time computer usage. These sedentary activities decrease time spent on physical activity and such behaviors may be affecting the health of Canadian children – nearly one in three is overweight or obese.

More than 95 per cent of the children who participated in the research acknowledged the importance of physical activity and more than two thirds of the children said they would spend more time in physical activities if they were “given the choice.” Almost 75 per cent of girls said they would engage in more physical activity, compared to 65 per cent of boys. This finding was a revelation to the research team. “It was a little bit surprising that there was a statistically significant difference between boys and girls when asked if they would engage in more physical activity if given the choice. More girls than boys said they would choose to be more active. Nobody knew this,” Piché said.

Parents play a key role in providing options for physical activity and in shaping children’s screen-viewing behaviours. For example, placing limits on TV viewing is particularly important in early childhood, since TV viewing contributes to the greatest percentage of total screen time. Piché said, “Younger children are still very much influenced by their parents. I would certainly encourage the parents to get involved in physical activities with their children. For example, Family Day created an opportunity for families to get outdoors and go tobogganing or enjoy other winter activities.”

The study also showed that the vast majority of parents feel their neighborhoods are safe. The question, then, is what are the facilitators and barriers to having more choices to become more physically active? “If the parents think it’s a safe environment and the kids say that ‘given the choice’ they would become more physically active, why isn’t it happening? This opens the door for more research,” said Piché.

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Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college, is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. The 1,100 women registered as either full or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more information, please visit

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Len Piché
519.432.8353, ext. 28284

Title: Screen-related Sedentary Behaviours: Children's and Parents' Attitudes, Motivation, and Practices

Authors: Meizi He, Leonard Piché, Charlene Beynon, Stewart Harris

Journal: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior