Thursday, July 19, 2012

Link Between Television and Kids' Waistline and Athletic Ability

Photo courtesy of

     Children's health has always been an important issue for me. Childhood obesity is rising quickly and attention needs to be brought toward this epidemic. It makes sense that the more that children watch television, the larger their waistline will be. Now, there is a new study to describe more accurately what the association represents.

     Researchers at the University of Montreal found that each hour of television watched by two - four year old's contributes to their waist line and their muscular fitness level by the end of fourth grade. This is the first study to show how time in front of the television affects a specific measure of fitness, explosive leg strength. In the study, parents were asked about their children's television habits and then were examined by trained professionals. The child's muscular fitness was measured by administering a standing long jump test.

     The standing long jump is a good indicator of muscular fitness and athletic ability. The standing long jump measures explosive leg strength, very important in sports such as football, basketball and soccer. Researchers were able to translate hours in front of the television into centimeters around the waist and performance. It was found, for example, that each weekly hour of television watched at 29 months of age corresponds to about 1/3 centimeter decrease in the child's ability to long jump. By age 4.5, a child's waist size increased about 1/2 of a millimeter for every extra hour of television that was watched per week.

     These numbers may seem small, but to a child they are important. Also, considering that children watch a lot more television than one hour a week, the fractions start to add up quickly.

     There were 1,314 children that participated in this study and at the beginning parents reported, on average, 8.8 hours of television watched per week. This number increased by an average of 6 hours over the next 2 years which led to and average of 14.8 hours of television watched per week by the age 4.5

     Over time there has been a change in our habits and standard of living. We prefer pre-packaged or easily prepared foods that are high in calories and/or fat. In general, we are preferring sedentary activities. If children are watching television they are missing out on educational and recreational activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over the age of two should not watch more than two hours of television per day.

     Establishing unhealthy habits as a child can stick with them into adulthood. So it is important to enforce healthy lifestyle habits early. Parents need to serve as role models for their children as well. When parents watch an excessive amount of television, their children's television habits are more likely to exceed the AAP's recommendations. Parents should enforce activities that are educational or recreational.

     Although childhood obesity is not solely cause by television watching, it is a major risk factor. All risk factors for childhood obesity must be reduced.

GANN, CARRIE, and ABC News Medical Unit. "Study: More TV Linked to Larger Waists, Weaker Legs for Kids." ABC News. ABC News Network, 16 July 2012. Web. 19 July 2012.

Universite de Montreal. "TV habits predict kids' waist size and sporting ability." ScienceDaily, 15 Jul. 2012. Web. 19 Jul. 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment