Elevated television (TV) viewing and physical inactivity promote obesity in children. Thus, changes in physical activity and sedentary behavior seem critical to treating childhood obesity.
Using a randomized, 2-arm design, this pilot study tested the effects of contingent TV on physical activity and TV viewing in 10 obese children. TV viewing was contingent on pedaling a stationary cycle ergometer for experimental participants but was not contingent on pedaling for control participants. The study was conducted over 12 weeks, including a 2-week baseline period.
Multivariate analyses indicated that the intervention significantly increased pedaling and reduced TV-viewing time. During the treatment phase, the experimental group pedaled 64.4 minutes per week on average, compared with 8.3 minutes by controls. The experimental group watched 1.6 hours of TV per week on average, compared with 21.0 hours per week on average by controls during this phase. Secondary analyses indicated that the experimental group showed significantly greater reductions in total body fat and percent leg fat. Total pedaling time during intervention correlated with greater reductions in percent body fat (r = −0.68).
Contingencies in the home environment can be arranged to modify physical activity and TV viewing and may have a role in treating childhood obesity. Contingent TV may be one method to help achieve this goal.