A new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity finds that the more time a kid spends in front of the television in early life negatively impacts his or her physical activity capacity and waist circumference in later childhood.
Researchers from the University of Montreal studied 1,300 children from ages 2-4 and recorded their average hours per week of TV watching time, as reported by their parents. The researchers followed up when the children reached second grade to test their standing long jump abilities and again in fourth grade to measure waist circumference.
The study results indicate that every extra hour of TV watched per week at 2 years of age equated to a loss of 0.361 cm in the standing long jump and a 0.047 cm increase in waist size.
While fractions of a centimeter increase or decrease based on an hour of television may not sound like much – when computed to reflect actual increases in TV watching as modern children age, it is. Up to 15% of children in the study who watched 18 hours of TV or more per week experienced a .76 cm increase in waist size by age 10.
The researchers conclude that, “Watching television excessively in early childhood, may eventually compromise muscular fitness and waist circumference in children as they approach pubertal age.”
So, is your screen time hurting your health? Nielsen estimates that the average American right now watches 5 hours of video per day – most of it on a traditional TV screen.
If you want to make the move to less boob tube, check out the Boston Public Health Commission’s Get Healthy Campaign: Turn Off the TV for tips on trimming your TV time.