Researchers have found that the more hours young children spend watching TV, the worse their muscular fitness and the larger their waist size as they approach their teens.Parents increasingly use the television as an ‘electronic babysitter’ and may be jeopardizing the long-term health of their children, researchers said.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that children under the age of two do not watch any TV, and older children should be limited to two hours a day.
Canadian research published in the International Journal of behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, has found that each hour of TV watched per week at age 29 months reduced the distance a child could jump—a standard measure of muscular fitness—and increased their waist circumference.
The team from Montreal University found that each hour of TV watched as a toddler corresponded to a 0.361cm waistline increase at aged 10.
For every extra hour of TV the child watched between age 2.5 and 4.5, on top of what they were watching as a toddler, they added just under a quarter of a centimeter.
So a child who watched 18 hours of television at 4.5 years of age will, by the age of 10, have an extra 7.6 millimeters of waist because of his or her habits.
They studied 1314 children from age 2.5 years to age 10.
On average each toddler watched 8.8 hours of television per week and this increased to 14.5 hours by the time they were 4.5 years-old.
Lead researcher Dr Caroline Fitzpatrick from New York University who conducted this research at the University de Montreal and Saint-Justine’s Hospital Research Centre, said: “TV is a modifiable lifestyle factor, and people need to be aware that toddler viewing habits may contribute to subsequent physical health
“Further research will help to determine whether amount of TV exposure is linked to any additional child health indicators, as well as cardiovascular health.”
She said if children do not think they can do well at sports at school it may affect how active they are throughout their lives.
“The pursuit of sports by children depends in part on their perceived athletic competence.”
“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.”
Co-author Dr Linda Pagani said: “The bottom line is that watching too much television – beyond the recommended amounts – is not good.
“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.
“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.”
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