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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland Study Identifies Car Riding As the Most Common Type of Sedentary Behavior in Children

A new study led by Dr. Jennifer D. Roberts, assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Department of Kinesiology, revealed that car riding is the most common type of sedentary activity in children’s daily lives. This particular finding is tied to the D.C./Maryland/Virginia metropolitan area, which has the third longest commute time among U.S. cities, according to the study.

[Photo: Dr. Jennifer D. Roberts]

Researchers also found that children who live in streets without cul-de-sacs are more likely to engage in sedentary behavior with electronics. A lack of parental rules and the presence of electronics in the bedroom can also contribute to sedentary habits in children, the study found.

The data for this study, known as the Built Environment and Active Play (BEAP) Study, was gathered through questionnaires that were mailed to 2,000 parents of children between the ages of 7 and 12 years within the Washington D.C. area.

The questions included aimed to differentiate between accompanied and solitary sedentary behaviors. Forty percent of study sample reported car riding as the most frequent type of daily sedentary behavior. Unlike previous sedentary behavior studies that focus on screen-based media use, this study shows that sedentary behavior is often dependent on the characteristics of the area being studied.

The study authors note that if they had only been focusing on screen-based behaviors, or the most commonly researched sedentary behavior activities, other types of behavior such as car riding would have been overlooked as a significant, substantial and unique contributor to the overall sedentary behavior of D.C. metro area youth, as well as other youth residing in similar car-dependent areas.

The BEAP study also showed that children who live in apartments spend more time being sedentary through the use of electronic media. The absence of yard space is the likely cause for these sedentary patterns, the study purports.

In the future, researchers hope to incorporate subjective parent-reported data, including information about “a typical week” in the family.  Subjective data could increase the understanding of the connection between neighborhood built environment, parental rules, demographics and sedentary behavior.

“Electronic Media Time and Sedentary Behaviors in Children: Findings from the Built Environment and Active Play Study in the Washington DC Area” was published in Preventive Medicine Reports: