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Little exercise and heavy use of electronic media, health risk for children

No exercise and heavy use of electronic media is health risk for children, study says
No exercise and heavy use of electronic media is health risk for children, study says
Photo credit: Brad Flickinger "student ipad school" on Flickr (cc)

We know that children who don’t exercise may have weight and obesity issues in later life. There is also evidence that sedentary behavior, like watching TV, playing video games and using computer leads to bad eating habits. But what happens when a child doesn’t exercise, eats erratically, spends too much time playing video games and sits around all day. A new study carried out by the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland put this all together in new research which found the combination of low levels of physical activity with heavy use of electronic media and other sedentary behavior are linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and vascular diseases already in 6–8 year-old children.

The study announced on May 21, 2014 from University of Eastern Finland and published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, “Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in relation to cardiometabolic risk in children: cross-sectional findings from the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study” shows the results from a lifestyle intervention study, “The Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study, the PANIC Study,” that examines the lifestyles, health and well-being of children. The study provided information on children's physical activity and sedentary behavior, nutrition, physical condition, body composition, metabolism, vascular system, brain function, oral health, life quality, effects of exercise and nutrition on a child’s health and well-being.

The researchers investigated the independent and combined results of both physical activity and sedentary activity on 468 children 6–8 years of age from 2007-2009. Both their physical activity and sedentary activities were assessed by a questionnaire administered by parents and validated by a monitor combining heart rate and accelerometry measurements.

We assessed body fat percentage, waist circumference, blood glucose, serum insulin, plasma lipids and lipoproteins and blood pressure and calculated a cardiometabolic risk score using population-specific Z-scores and a formula waist circumference + insulin + glucose + triglycerides - HDL cholesterol + mean of systolic and diastolic blood pressure. We analyzed data using multivariate linear regression models.

The types of sedentary behavior (SB) included: watching TV and videos, using a computer and playing video games, using a mobile phone and playing mobile games, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, reading, writing, drawing, doing arts and crafts, playing board games and resting. Electronic media time (EMT) was calculated by summing watching TV and videos, using a computer and playing video games and using a mobile phone and playing mobile games. The amount of total SB was calculated by summing the times spent in each SB and was expressed in minutes per day weighted by the number of weekdays and weekend days.

They found that low levels of physical activity – and unstructured physical activity in particular – are linked to increased risk factors for type 2 diabetes and vascular diseases in children. According to the study though, a higher risk factor was linked to children who displayed a heavy use of electronic media, and especially watching too much TV and videos. The highest risk factors were found in children who had the lowest levels of physical activity and highest levels of electronic media time. What’s surprising is that besides irregular eating and an unhealthy diet, the heavy use of electronic media not only increased the levels of risk factors in sedentary children, but also in children who are physically active.