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The motivation to be sedentary predicts weight change when sedentary behaviors are reduced

Leonard H Epstein*, James N Roemmich, Meghan D Cavanaugh and Rocco A Paluch

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, Farber Hall, Room G56, 3435 Main Street, Building #26, Buffalo, New York 14214-3000, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:13  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-13

Published: 22 February 2011



Obesity is correlated with a sedentary lifestyle, and the motivation to be active or sedentary is correlated with obesity. The present study tests the hypothesis that the motivation to be active or sedentary is correlated with weight change when children reduce their sedentary behavior.


The motivation to be active or sedentary, changes in weight, and accelerometer assessed physical activity were collected for 55 families with overweight/obese children who participated in a nine-week field study to examine behavior and weight change as a function of reducing sedentary behavior. Children were studied in three 3-week phases, baseline, reduce targeted sedentary behaviors by 25% and reduce targeted sedentary behaviors by 50%. The targeted sedentary behaviors included television, video game playing, video watching, and computer use.


The reinforcing value of sedentary behavior but not physical activity, was correlated with weight change, as losing weight was associated with lower reinforcing value of sedentary behaviors. Reducing sedentary behavior was not associated with a significant change in objectively measured physical activity, suggesting the main way in which reducing sedentary behavior influenced weight change is by complementary changes in energy intake. Estimated energy intake supported the hypothesis that reducing sedentary behaviors influences weight by reducing energy intake.


These data show that the motivation to be sedentary limits the effects of reducing sedentary behavior on weight change in obese children.

Trial registration NCT00962247