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Children who watch television more likely to be overweight

Sesame Street characters
Sesame Street characters
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Does watching too much television as a child have an impact on fitness levels and weight?  Studies show a resounding, "yes!"  

A University of Michigan study found that just being awake and in the room with the TV on more than two hours a day was a risk factor for being overweight at ages three and four-and-a-half. 

A second study investigated whether diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior or television viewing predicted body mass index  among 3- to 7-year-old children.  The results showed that television viewing and level of physical activity was most associated with the overweight risk.  Additionally, researchers found that amount of television viewing was even a bigger factor than the child's diet. 

Why is television such a major factor in contributing to childhood obesity?  Children that watch several hours of television are using up valuable time being sedentary when they could be physically active.  Studies have also shown while watching TV, the metabolic rate seems to go even lower than during rest. That means that a child would burn fewer calories while watching TV than when just sitting quietly, doing nothing.  Children that watch television are also likely to be snacking while watching.  Commercials may also play a role in obesity.  Many advertisements for sugary snacks and fast food are directed at children.

The American College of Pediatrics recommends limiting television viewing to 1-2 hours per day for children over the age of two and no television viewing at all for children under the age of two. 

That being said, not all television viewing is deterimental.  Children can get help learning the alphabet or colors on shows like Sesame Street and older children can learn new information about animals and biology on the National Geographic channel.  Just like everything else, television in moderation is fine.  Just keep the guidelines and research in mind and make sure the family gets adequate time to be physically active!


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