Much attention has focused in recent years on the widespread nature of childhood obesity and the health risks that being overweight brings, including elevated blood pressure levels that can increase the risk of having a heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

And while this is certainly cause for concern, scientists are now recognizing that the risk extends beyond children who are overweight. Even kids who maintain a healthy weight can experience high blood pressure if they spend too much time in front of the TV or engaging in other sedentary activities. That's the main message contained in a study that was published in the August 2009, issue of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Weighing the Connection

To understand the connection, the scientists tracked a group of young people for a seven-day period to see how their blood pressure was affected in response to their activity levels. Participants in the study spent an average of five hours a day engaged in such sedentary behaviors, which includes sitting to watch television, to play video games and using a computer.

Interestingly enough, participants who watched television or performed other activities in front of a screen (such as video games) experienced elevated blood pressure readings, while others who sat down to use the computer didn't experience the same type of increase in their blood pressure.

Some experts believe that the reason for this discrepancy in high blood pressure cause and effect, at least in part, could have to do with secondary factors related to television viewing, such as eating while watching TV, which can also impact blood pressure results.

A Widespread Problem

These findings reinforce those of an earlier study that was reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health in February, 2007 that set out to establish high blood pressure cause and effect among teenagers. This earlier effort looked specifically at the television viewing habits of a group of teens and determined that the time spent in front of the television did lead to increased blood pressure among this age group as well.

While it's long been recognized that exercise can lower blood pressure readings among different age groups, this was the first such effort to confirm that rather than leaving things status quo, sedentary activity actually can actually have the opposite effect, causing blood pressure to increase significantly.

Set Limits

This information can serve as a strong reminder to limit your children's television watching time and encourage them in get involved in other, more healthful activities.


Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

Journal of Adolescent Health