• television;
  • video games;
  • body mass index;
  • adolescents


Objective: This study examined the effects of physical activity, television viewing, video game play, socioeconomic status (SES), and ethnicity on body mass index (BMI).

Research Methods and Procedures: The sample was 2389 adolescents, 10 to 16 years of age (12.7 ± 1.0 years); 1240 (52%) females and 1149 (48%) males; 77% white and 23% African American; from rural (77%) and urban (23%) settings. BMI and skinfolds were directly assessed. All other data were obtained from questionnaires.

Results: Watching television on non-school days was related to being overweight (p < 0.005). However, when BMI analyses were adjusted for ethnicity and SES, there were no significant effects of television viewing on BMI (p > 0.061). Increased hours of video game play enhanced the risk of being overweight for both genders when analyses were adjusted for ethnicity and SES (p < 0.019). In males, participation in as little as one high-intensity physical activity 3 to 5 days a week decreased the ethnic- and SES-adjusted relative risk of being overweight (RR = 0.646; CI: 0.427 to 0.977). For females, the ethnic- and SES-adjusted relative risk for being overweight was not significantly altered by physical activity. The logistic analyses further indicated the influence of low SES and African American ethnicity overshadowed any direct effect of television or videos.

Discussion: Because weight status of male adolescents appears to be more related to exercise habits than to television or video game habits, increased participation in high-intensity exercise appears to be important. For females, neither videos nor exercise habits appear to be related to risk of being overweight. However, ethnicity and SES may be important factors that can influence body weight status, while television viewing may be of some importance. Thus, programs to reduce obesity in female adolescent should focus their efforts in lower SES communities.