Get the latest issue
It’s Good Housekeeping’s 17th anniversary, and mommies, it’s your month, too! Enjoy meaty reads on everything relevant to you—from deliciously simple cake recipes to stories of compassion during Pope Francis’s visit.
Kids who spend a lot of time watching television are bound to have problems with their weight. In a new study published in BioMed’s open access journal, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, researchers have found that the length of screen time kids have affects them right down to the millimeter of their waistline and the centimeter of their long jump prowess.
Looking at 1,314 kids who participated in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, researchers learned that at 2.5 years old, children spent an approximate 8.8 hours watching television per week. Over the next two years, the kids were glued to the boob tube at an average of 14.8 hours per week. At 4.5 years old, 15 percent of the kids watched more than 18 hours of TV per week.
As the hours of TV time increased, so did their waistlines. In fact, every hour the kids added to their TV time between age 2.5 to age 4.5 led to a half millimeter increase in waist size by the time the children were in grade school. "Our study is the first to look specifically at waist measurements," says lead author Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick. "The weight around the waist is particularly dangerous in terms of cardiovascular and metabolic health."
Aside from the thickness of the waistline, explosive leg strength is also an important indicator of physical fitness. When the kids reached 8.5 years old, researchers asked them to perform a long jump exam to measure their leg power. Those who spent a lot of time watching TV at 2.5 years old were more likely to end up at the bottom 5 percent of the pile. In fact, every hour spent watching TV at that age resulted in a third of a centimeter loss in jumping distance.
The problem of obesity and physical inactivity then stems from the children’s environment at a young age. Although a lot of educational TV programs have cropped up over the last few years, you are not supposed to expose your kids to them all. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics restricts children over age two from watching more than two hours of television. Children younger than that shouldn’t be watching TV at all. Instead, encourage them to play games with the other kids next door or take them to see their grandparents. Given the right direction, your children will soon learn that there are a lot of exciting things that could be done aside from watching TV all day.
(Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons)