Every hour of television watched by a 2-4 year olds contributes to the child's waist circumference and his or her ability to perform in sports, say researchers at the University of Montreal. The findings, based on assessments of 1,314 children, appear in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
"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," said researcher Linda Pagani. "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."
In terms of waist size, the researchers found that, at 4.5 years of age, the children's waist size increased by slightly less than half a millimetre for every extra weekly hour of TV the child was watching on top of what they had been watching when he or she was 2.5. To put it another way, a child who watches 18 hours of television at 4.5 years of age will by the age of 10 have an extra 7.6 millimetres of waist because of his or her habits.
The researchers also found that for each weekly hour of TV at 29 months of age corresponded to a decrease of about a third of a centimeter in the distance a child is able to jump.
"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," Pagani said.
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Source: University of Montreal