With much of the country still staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus, a new Cal Poly study on how to reduce the time spent in front of video screens is even more applicable than researchers initially thought.
Sedentary screen time — watching TV, streaming movies, playing video games — consumes more than half of Americans’ available leisure time. Aside from work and sleep, Americans spend more time in front of our screens than doing anything else.
All this sitting is far from harmless. Sedentary time increases risk for chronic disease, and previous studies have shown that sedentary screen time increases that risk more than other sedentary behaviors.
Finding the best ways to get people away from their screens and get them moving is the goal of a new study led by Sarah Keadle, a professor in Cal Poly’s Kinesiology and Public Health Department.
“Given how consistent the evidence is that screen time is bad for health, it was surprising that there had not yet been a large study in adults to test what approaches to reducing screen time work the best, or a study that accounted for all the new ways people engage with screens like streaming services and social media,” Keadle said.
Using StandUPTV, a smartphone-based app, Keadle and her colleagues at Cal Poly and Arizona State University will test three strategies: receiving adaptive text messages, being locked out of further screen time, or earning back screen time through exercise. Through these interventions and a self-monitoring routine, the research team hopes to help people cut their sedentary screen time by 50%.
Researchers will also examine how reductions in sedentary screen time impact physical activity, sleep, diet, mood and disease risk factors.
“Our main goal is to figure out the best way to reduce screen time, but we will also get important new information about what else changes in people’s lives when they reduce screen time,” Keadle said. “We will be measuring their physical activity, snacking and diet, sleep and risk for disease, which is a really important step in figuring out why screen time is consistently linked to poor health.”
The research team is currently recruiting participants for the study. Eligible participants must be ages 23-64, own a smartphone or tablet, and have internet access with no limit on the amount of data. Anyone interested in participating or learning more about the study can call 805-756-5506.