TV habits 'can predict kids' waist size and fitness'

Children watching television Experts say children should not watch more than two hours of TV a day

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Children who increase the number of hours of weekly television they watch between the ages of two and four years old risk larger waistlines by age 10.

A Canadian study found that every extra weekly hour watched could add half a millimetre to their waist circumference and reduce muscle fitness.

The study, in a BioMed Central journal, tracked the TV habits of 1,314 children.

Experts say children should not watch more than two hours of TV a day.

Researchers found that the average amount of television watched by the children at the start of the study was 8.8 hours a week.

This increased on average by six hours over the next two years to reach 14.8 hours a week by the age of four-and-a-half.

Fifteen per cent of the children in the study were watching more than 18 hours per week by that age, according to their parents.

The study said the effect of 18 hours of television at 4.5 years of age would by the age of 10 result in an extra 7.6mm of waist because of the child's TV habit.

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    Start Quote

    Watching more television displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits”

    End Quote Dr Linda Pagani University of Montreal
    'Bottom line'

    As well as measuring waist circumference, the researchers also carried out a standing long jump test to measure each child's muscular fitness and athletic ability.

    An extra weekly hour of TV can decrease the distance a child is able to jump from standing by 0.36cm, the study said.

    The researchers said that further research was needed to work out whether television watching is directly responsible for the health issues they observed.

    Dr Linda Pagani, study co-author from the University of Montreal, said it was a warning about the factors which could lead to childhood obesity.

    "The bottom line is that watching too much television - beyond the recommended amounts - is not good," Dr Pagani said.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged over two should not watch more than two hours of television per day.

    Dr Pagani added: "Across the occidental world, there have been dramatic increases in unhealthy weight for both children and adults in recent decades.

    "Our standard of living has also changed in favour of more easily prepared, calorie-dense foods and sedentary practices.

    "Watching more television not only displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits but also places them at risk of learning inaccurate information about proper eating."

    The study said that habits and behaviours became entrenched during childhood and these habits might affect attitudes to sporting activities in adulthood.


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    • rate this

      Comment number 148.

      This is not exactly pioneering research, is it? If you spend more time doing less but consume the same calorific count, you will gain weight. If you spend more time doing more with the same calorific count, you will lose weight. How about a bit of balance?

    • rate this

      Comment number 61.

      children of fat parents are themselves likely to be fat. Children who don't exercise are probably going to be fat. Children who don't participate in games or sport are probably going to be fat. All of these things usually go hand in hand with children watching MORE TV, the TV doesn't make them fat, their lifestyle and that of their parents does.

    • rate this

      Comment number 49.

      Young children are now paranoid about being fat. My 8 year old daughter is. She doesn't read fashion magazines, she gets it from SCHOOL. Not from her peers, but teachers who are being forced to preach weight loss to kids as young as 4 because of the health professionals. Let the kids be kids. Stop telling them they're fat. Some are overweight, but some are just about to have a growth spurt!

    • rate this

      Comment number 22.

      It's to do with diet and exercise, not how long you watch telly. Both me and my son spend a fair amount of time watching telly, but we are both healthy weights.
      It makes me wonder too, what if you spend hours a day reading a book? When will that make the news... 'Reading too much makes you overweight!'
      It's too easy to find correlations between unrelated subjects.

    • rate this

      Comment number 6.

      Is this true of general inactivity or specifically TV? If I sat a child on the sofa and read to them for an hour after they've done their allowance of tv watching would that be as bad as watching that extra 1 hour of tv? I do believe everyone watches too much tv, I watch about 2-3 hours a week thats enough for me!


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