Dr. Jennifer Roberts
August 13, 2018

A new statement from the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Obesity Committee calls for a reduction in screen time and suggests that children and adults “sit less, play/move more.” The statement cites Assistant Professor Dr. Jennifer Roberts’ (Kinesiology) Built Environment and Active Play (BEAP) Study.

Dr. Robert’s contributes to a new Reuters Health article discussing the AHA statement. The article underscores the prevalence of sedentary behaviors and its relationship to obesity and other cardiometabolic outcomes among youth, “Most people are starting to realize this is a serious problem, particularly in this country,” Dr. Roberts comments in the article.

To specifically mitigate risks from screen time related sedentary behavior, the AHA statement recommends creating daily “device-free” time and reducing screen time by promoting face-to-face interactions and outdoor play. The AHA statement emphasizes the need to accurately assess the “nature of sedentary behavior” in youth with quantitative and qualitative research. Dr. Roberts agrees with AHA’s position on the need for further evidence to establish quantitative guidelines on sedentary behavior. “Similar to the physical activity guidelines, empirically based research is needed so that we can know with confidence how much and which type of sedentary behavior is too much for our kids.”

In an effort to build this evidence base, Dr. Roberts leads the University of Maryland Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory. The PHOEBE Lab examines “The environmental factors that encourage or discourage all domains of physical activity (e.g. recreational, transportation, household, occupational) and how these factors may be associated with physical (e.g. obesity) and mental (e.g. depression) public health outcomes among adults, adolescents and children.”

As part of the PHOEBE Lab, Dr. Roberts led the 2017 BEAP Study, which found that car riding is the most common type of sedentary activity among Washington D.C. children and that the built environment, bedroom electronics, and absence of parental rules are significantly associated with the number of hours and days of sedentary behavior.

“When we’re sedentary at work and home and try to cram in a 45-minute gym session, that’s already a challenge,” Dr. Roberts told Reuters Health. “How can we incorporate physical activity into our lives where we achieve some movement by getting from Point A to Point B?” That is a question that Dr. Roberts and the PHOEBE Lab continue to explore.

Related Links

Heart Doctors Recommend Less Screen Time, Sedentary Behavior for Kids

Related People
Jennifer D. Roberts