The association between screen time, physical activity levels, and metabolic markers in elementary school-aged children
Hispanic children have the highest prevalence of obesity versus other ethnic groups. This leaves this population susceptible to many adverse health risks, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. Unfortunately, little research has been done investigating the contributing cause to this issue, specifically common sedentary behaviors in children that limit physical activity and it’s purpose in expending energy. Amongst these behaviors, amount of time spent on electronic devices has proven to have increased drastically in recent years. The relationship between screen time and electronic device use, specifically with television, video games, and computer usage, and physical activity levels, and how those affect cardiometabolic disease risk factors, were explored in this study. Participants of this study were elementary school-aged children from Maricopa County, AZ. Electronic device usage, physical activity amounts, and presence of the specific devices in the child’s were collected from the participants’ parents through self-reported survey questions. Anthropometric and biochemical markers of cardiometabolic disease risk were directly measured. The average time spent engaged in physical activity per day by these participants was 20.02 ± 21.1 minutes and the average total screen time per day was 655 ± 605 minutes. Findings showed strong significance between total screen time and computer and video game use (r=0.482; p=0.01 and r=0.784; p=0.01, respectively). Video game time in the group of children with a video game in their room (350.66 ± 445.96 min/day) was significantly higher than the sample of kids without one in their room (107.19 ± 210.0 min/day ; p=0.000). Total screen time was also significantly greater with children who had a video game system in their room (927.56 ± 928.7 min/day) versus children who did not (543.14 ± 355.11 min/day; p=0.006). Additionally, significance was found showing children with a computer in the bedroom spent more time using the computer per day (450.95 ± 377.95 min/day), compared to those children who did not have a computer in their room (333.5 ± 395.6 min/day; p=0.048). No significant association was found between metabolic markers and screen time. However, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin proved to be dependent on BMI percentile (r=-0.582; p=0.01, r=0.476; p=0.01, r=0.704; p=0.01 respectively). Our data suggest further research needs to be done investigating other potential sources that limit physical activity so that strategies can focus on reducing obesity incidence and the associated health risks. Future studies should use larger sample sizes to be more representative of this population, and develop more direct observations instead of self-reported values to limit bias.