Most parents recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle for their children and limit TV watching to encourage healthy habits. As if you needed another reason to turn off the screen, a new study suggests that TV watching leads to larger waistlines and weaker leg muscles in children, reports TIME.com.
While many studies have shown the negative effects of TV watching on health, the new study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, looked at more than 1300 children and recognized a concrete link between screen exposure and fitness.
Parents of the children in the study provided the hours their children spent watching TV between the ages of 2.5 and 4.5. Researchers found that for each additional hour of weekly TV, children’s waist size increased by just less than half a millimeter by the time children entered elementary school. While it may not sound like much, those incremental increases add up—ultimately meaning that a child who watches 18 hours of TV per week at age 4.5 will have added an extra 7.6 mm (0.3 in.) to his waist by age 10.
Aside from weighing more, children in the study who watched more TV also had less strength in their leg muscles. The study found that for every weekly hour of TV watching, children decreased a third of a centimeter in long jump distance. Since long jump performance indicates necessary ability for team sports such as basketball or football, students who watched more TV performed worse at these sports.
According to guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children over the age of two should not watch more than two hours of TV a day.
How much TV do you let your children watch? Will the results of this study affect how much screen time you allow your kids?