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Can sedentary behavior be made more active? A randomized pilot study of TV commercial stepping versus walking

Jeremy A Steeves1*, David R Bassett2, Eugene C Fitzhugh3, Hollie A Raynor4 and Dixie L Thompson5

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, National Cancer Institute, 6120 Executive Boulevard, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

2 Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

3 Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

4 Department of Nutrition, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

5 Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:95  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-95

Published: 6 August 2012



There is a growing problem of physical inactivity in America, and approximately a quarter of the population report being completely sedentary during their leisure time. In the U.S., TV viewing is the most common leisure-time activity. Stepping in place during TV commercials (TV Commercial Stepping) could increase physical activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of incorporating physical activity (PA) into a traditionally sedentary activity, by comparing TV Commercial Stepping during 90 min/d of TV programming to traditional exercise (Walking).


A randomized controlled pilot study of the impact of 6 months of TV Commercial Stepping versus Walking 30 min/day in adults was conducted. 58 sedentary, overweight (body mass index 33.5 ± 4.8 kg/m2) adults (age 52.0 ± 8.6 y) were randomly assigned to one of two 6-mo behavioral PA programs: 1) TV Commercial Stepping; or 2) Walking 30 min/day. To help facilitate behavior changes participants received 6 monthly phone calls, attended monthly meetings for the first 3 months, and received monthly newsletters for the last 3 months. Using intent-to-treat analysis, changes in daily steps, TV viewing, diet, body weight, waist and hip circumference, and percent fat were compared at baseline, 3, and 6 mo. Data were collected in 2010–2011, and analyzed in 2011.


Of the 58 subjects, 47 (81%) were retained for follow-up at the completion of the 6-mo program. From baseline to 6-mo, both groups significantly increased their daily steps [4611 ± 1553 steps/d vs. 7605 ± 2471 steps/d (TV Commercial Stepping); 4909 ± 1335 steps/d vs. 7865 ± 1939 steps/d (Walking); P < 0.05] with no significant difference between groups. TV viewing and dietary intake decreased significantly in both groups. Body weight did not change, but both groups had significant decreases in percent body fat (3-mo to 6-mo), and waist and hip circumference (baseline to 6-mo) over time.


Participants in both the TV Commercial Stepping and Walking groups had favorable changes in daily steps, TV viewing, diet, and anthropometrics. PA can be performed while viewing TV commercials and this may be a feasible alternative to traditional approaches for increasing daily steps in overweight and obese adults.

Trial Registration

This study is registered at, NCT01342471

Walking; Physical activity intervention; Obesity; Diet; Weight; Behavior change; TV commercial stepping