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Study: Sedentary behaviour and obesity

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The Daily

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A new study finds a positive association between the number of hours spent watching television and the likelihood of being obese.

The study, "Sedentary behaviour and obesity," is based on data released today from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey.

The study, which used data from 42,600 men and women aged 20 to 64, found strong evidence of a positive association between the time spent watching television and obesity among both sexes. It is one of the first studies based on a nationally representative data set to examine associations between sedentary behaviours and obesity among Canadian adults.

The study also found an association between computer use and obesity for both sexes. But a third sedentary activity, reading, was not associated with obesity for either sex.

When factors such as age, marital status, education, household income, immigrant status and urban-rural residence were taken into account, the odds of obesity among men and women who reported watching television 21 or more hours a week were almost twice the odds for men and women who averaged 5 hours or fewer in front of the tube.

The associations persisted when infrequent leisure-time physical activity and low consumption of fruit and vegetables were taken into account. This reinforces findings of other studies that found television viewing to be related to obesity, independent of physical activity and dietary intake.

As well, leisure-time computer use was significantly associated with obesity among men and women. When age and other socio-demographic characteristics were taken into account, those who used computers for at least six hours a week had increased odds of being obese, compared with those who averaged no more than five hours.

Available on CANSIM: tables 105-0501 and 105-0502.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3226.

The article, "Sedentary behaviour and obesity," which is part of today's Health Reports online release, is now available (82-003-XWE) from the Publications module of our website. This issue of Health Reports contains another study on physical inactivity, "Screen time among Canadian adults: A profile."

The complete version of the latest issue of Health Reports, Vol. 19, no. 2 (82-003-XWE, free) is now available from the Publications module of our website. A printed version (82-003-XPE, $24/$68) is also available.

For more information on this article, contact Margot Shields (613-951-4177;, Health Information and Research Division, Statistics Canada or Mark Tremblay (613-298-3428;, Physical Health Measures Division, Statistics Canada, and the Healthy Active Living Research Group, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.

For more information about the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey, or about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-1746;

The latest electronic issue of Health Indicators, 2008, no. 1 (82-221-XIE, free) provides a set of over 20 health indicators for Canada, the provinces and territories, and the health regions, based on the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey.