Television Can't Be Good for Health, But How Bad Is It?
We all know that watching TV isn’t ideal for having a healthy child and there have been studies that back up this theory. But, a recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity gives more specific information on the link between television and obesity. This isn’t to say that television is one of the direct causes of child obesity, but we all know that child obesity in America is a problem, and this link found between TV and obesity in children is another important factor to take into account.
What Effect Does Watching TV Have on Children’s Health?
The link that this new study found in television and childhood obesity is that the more TV a child watches, the more likely they are to be bigger around their middle section and have less muscle.
What’s different about this study is that is focused on a specific body part: their explosive leg strength. This is important in sports such as soccer, football and basketball. However, it’s an important muscle of fitness overall, not just for aspiring athletes, as Caroline Fitzpatrick, the author of the study, point outs.
Television and Childhood Obesity StudyThis study to find the television effects on health was conducted with the University of Montreal and studied over 1,300 children. When the children aged to 2 and 4-years-old, researchers asked parents how much TV their child watched. The average for 2-year-olds was 9 hours per week. The average rose to 15 hours per week when the child turned 4.
They then waited a few years, when the children reached second and fourth grade to learn more about television and health. They measured their waistlines and asked how they did in the standing long jump exercise, which directly measures explosive leg strength. They did the numbers and found a direct correlation between the amount of TV the child watched and their leg strength and waistlines.
Each hour per week a child watched of TV as a 2-year-old shaved .361 centimeters off their long jump. If a child watched an hour more of TV when they were 4 than when they were 2, that resulted in a .285 shave. That hour also corresponds with a .047 centimeter waistline gain. This is not to say that television and childhood obesity cause each other, and a centimeter may not seem like much, but on a tiny child’s body, centimeters count.
It’s not just about appearance. Waist size correlates with heart health, back pain and a plethora of other health problems. And while an extra hour of TV here and there might seem like nothing, those hours add up. Researchers found that 15 percent of children studied watched more than 18 hours of TV per week, which meant a .76 centimeter waist size increase.
How Bad is Television for Childhood Health?
Of course, no parents want childhood obesity for their child. This study doesn’t necessarily mean the boob tube is the magical pound-packing machine. Hours watching TV simply takes away from hours that could be devoted to doing healthy activities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children should watch less than two hours of TV per day and children under 2 shouldn’t watch TV at all. To counteract television and obesity, maybe try to offset two hours of watching TV with two hours of physical activity.