Reversing the Sedentary Trend among America’s Youth

Posted on by Kevin.

A recent study showed that the growing sedentary trend among America’s youth can be reversed. The study, published in the July issue of Pediatrics , found that greater amounts of physical activity in young people correlates with decreased amounts of screen time. Researchers surveyed 5,685 households and 7,415 youngsters ages nine to fifteen. One striking feature of their findings strongly suggests that simply establishing limits with children leads to less screen time overall.

I have found in my work with youngsters who overly indulge in the cyber world that linking computer and video game use to positive target behaviors can also be quite effective. One week with no missing assignments in school could be rewarded with three or four hours of video game time on the weekend. An hour-long bike ride could be linked with an hour on the computer. If the cyber world provides potent motivational potential for your child , USE IT!

Aerobic video games, like Dance, Dance Revolution (DDR), comprise another powerful tool. Dr. Ernie Medina has opened the XRtainment Zone using DDR and other fitness-oriented video games to attract those who generally would not even think about exercising. I recommend that families augment their video game arsenal with these types of aerobic games, and, even better, play them as a family. The Wii gaming system is one I highly recommend because it has multiple aerobic options. The Wii Fit, for example, provides a compelling combination of exercise and fun. Many of my cyber-addicted clients struggle with weight issues. Systems like the Wii Fit help beat them “at their own game.”

Tim, a 400 pound video game and Facebook junkie, and member of one of my cyber recovery groups, put on his weight largely from a nine-hour-a-day screen time habit. His program of recovery started with a 20-minute walk every day. “I thought I was going to be fat for the rest of my life,” Tim told me. “Once I started to limit my screen time and just do simple things like walking or going out with friends, the weight just started to come off.”

Tim’s parents divorced when he was fourteen, a fact which sent his mother into the workforce. “There was no parental supervision,” Tim confessed. “I could just do whatever I wanted, and that’s exactly what I did.” Parents are working more hours, sometimes for less pay, and so it is becoming increasingly common for children to raise themselves. It is imperative, however, that parents find a way to set limits so they can save their children from wallowing their lives away in front of a computer screen or video game console.


  1. I can see the correlation between long hours spent gaming and unhealthy habits that can lead to obesity and a toxic lifestyle. Snacks appeal to gamers because they are easy to eat, usually not messy, and are quick to consume which can lead to more time spent playing video games. Unfortunately, they do not provide the same health benefits of an actual meal and are laden with fats, high-fructose corn syrups, and other harmful ingredients. This may not be a problem once in a while, but if this habit continues everyday, it can be detrimental to a gamer’s well-being.

    Exercise is extremely important for everyone and should be introduced to anyone who spends hours on video games everyday. Exercise gives an alternative to release energy, get in shape, and most importantly, improve overall health. Personally, exercise has helped me increase my confidence and it feels good to take a break from gaming and get out of the house.

    Posted on by Janson
    • Janson, I appreciate your points! Yes, excessive cyber activity clearly correlates with other unhealthy behaviors, which is perhaps one of the more disturbing aspects of this growing problem.

      Posted on by Kevin (Author)
  2. Single mom here… I have two boys, 13 and 11. They’re at a very difficult age, and I really feel like I may be losing touch with them. I work so often that it’s hard for me to constantly supervise their activities. And when I am home, they never seem to break away from the television and video games. Any help you can give me is welcome here…

    Posted on by Darlene
    • Darlene, being a single mother raising two adolescent boys is hard work. The “screens” in our homes keep children somewhat placated, but, unlike you, many parents do not understand the long-term consequences of excessive screen time. First of all, there are lock boxes into which you can plug the computer and television. Those boxes have electronic programs that allow you to program the amount of time kids sit in front of the screen before the power turns off. They are pretty durable, but determined kids can break into them. It may be prudent to remove the “screens” from your home and allow the kids to earn them back. As well, you may have to come up with a behavior modification plan that links desirable/healthy behaviors to screen time. In all of this, please get some support so you don’t have to do this alone. Find a man at your church who can mentor and guide yours sons. If you live in an urban area, get them involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs. Reach out to as many people and organizations as possible. The more support you get, the more successful you will likely be.

      Posted on by Kevin (Author)
      • Thank you so much for all your advice! You’re right, I do need more help with the kids. It’s funny you mentioned the church… I’ve been having our youth pastor come over and spend time with the kids, because I had the same idea. maybe I can work with him to help some limits with the kids. I’ll look into those lock boxes… to be honest, I’ve never heard of them before, but they sound like life savers. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

        Posted on by Darlene
        • Darlene, it sounds like you’re a very conscientious parent. Your boys are lucky to have you!

          Posted on by Kevin (Author)
  3. I just read this article and you are so right! My kids will not get off the couch unless I use the television and video games as leverage. Any tips to make this process easier?

    Posted on by Darlene
    • Darlene, is there a father involved or are you a single parent? How many kids do you have? Boys? Girls?

      Posted on by Kevin (Author)
  4. Thanks for your vote of confidence. 🙂

    Posted on by Kevin (Author)

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