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TV Watching Habits In Children Can Determine Their Waist Size and Sporting Ability

Update Date: Jul 16, 2012 09:25 AM EDT

After a latest survey which revealed that children these days are spending 10 times more time indoors than they spend on outdoor activities, here is another study which chalks out the ill effects of TV watching, a couch bound activity.

Researchers claim, that every hour of TV watched by a two- to four-year- old adds up to his or her waist size by the end of grade 4 and also effects his or her ability to perform in sports.

This is the first study ever of its kind, conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated Saint-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital.

"We already knew that there is an association between preschool television exposure and the body fat of fourth grade children, but this is the first study to describe more precisely what that association represents," Dr. Linda Pagani, senior author of the study explained in the news release.

 "Parents were asked about their child's TV habits. Trained examiners took waist measurements and administered the standing long jump test to measure child muscular fitness. We found, for example that each weekly hour of TV at 29 months of age corresponds to a decrease of about a third of a centimeter in the distance a child is able to jump" she added.

Apart from indicating the muscle fitness, standing long jump test can also tell a person's athletic ability, since sports activities like football requires "explosive leg strength" measured by the test.

"The pursuit of sports by children depends in part on their perceived athletic competence," lead author Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick said. "Behavioural dispositions can become entrenched during childhood as it is a critical period for the development of habits and preferred activities. Accordingly, the ability to perform well during childhood may promote participation in sporting activities in adulthood."

For the study, 1314 children from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development database were observed and studied. The parents of the children aged between 2.5 to 4.5 years reported the time spent by the children watching TV during the week and at the weekend.At the beginning of the study, the average time spent by children on watching TV was found to be 8.8 hours per week. However, the time kept increasing  for the next two years in an average of 6 hours and the children were found to be spending 14.8 hours per week by the time they reached 4.5 years of age.

This meant that 15% of the participant children were watching 18 hours of TV per week.

Also, the increase in the size of the waist of the children was found to be directly proportional to every extra hour per week of TV they watched when compared to the time when they were 2.5 years old.  

The waist size increased by slightly less than half a millimetre for every extra hour per week.

The researchers emphasize that there is a need for further studies that can establish that ill effects of  watching TV on health of the children and that there is a need for authorities to develop policies that target the environmental factors associated with childhood obesity.

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

"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 favor 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. These findings support clinical suspicions that more screen time in general contributes to the rise in excess weight in our population, thus providing essential clues for effective approaches to its eradication."

According to American Academy of pediatrics, children above 2 years of age must not watch TV for more than 2 hours per day.

The findings were published in BioMed Central's open access journal the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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