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Content analysis of prime-time television coverage of physical activity, 1970–2001

      Abstract

      Background

      The purpose of this study was to examine how major nightly television networks reported on the health benefits of physical activity.

      Methods

      A retrospective content analysis of physical activity coverage on four major nightly television networks from 1970 to 2001 was performed. The Vanderbilt Television News Archives were searched for keywords “physical activity,” “physical fitness,” and “exercise.”

      Results

      During the 31-year time period, 111 non-overlapping reports aired on all networks combined. The link between physical activity and health was reported in 53 (47.7%) articles, with general health (n =16, 14.4%) and heart disease (n =12, 12.6%) cited most frequently. Just three broadcasts related to the Surgeon's General Report on Physical Activity and Health were aired following its publication in 1996.

      Conclusions

      Although the protective health benefits of physical activity are well established, physical activity received a modest amount of television coverage from 1970 through 2001.
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