A new study suggests a child’s television habits influence athletic performance and body composition.
Researchers at the University of Montreal discovered that each hour of TV watched by a two- to four-year-old contributes to his or her waist circumference by the end of grade 4 and his or her ability to perform in sports.
The findings are published in BioMed Central’s open access journal the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Lead author Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick and senior author Dr. Linda Pagani comment, “We already knew that there is an association between preschool television exposure and the body fat of fourth grade children, but this is the first study to describe more precisely what that association represents.
“Parents were asked about their child’s TV habits. Trained examiners took waist measurements and administered the standing long jump test to measure child muscular fitness. We found, for example that each weekly hour of TV at 29 months of age corresponds to a decrease of about a third of a centimeter in the distance a child is able to jump.”
The standing long jump is a well recognized fitness test to predict an individual’s athletic ability in sports such as football, skating, and basketball. The test serves as a proxy to measure “explosive leg strength,” a key component to athletic performance.
“The pursuit of sports by children depends in part on their perceived athletic competence,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Behavioral dispositions can become entrenched during childhood as it is a critical period for the development of habits and preferred activities. Accordingly, the ability to perform well during childhood may promote participation in sporting activities in adulthood.”
Over 1,300 children and their parents participated in the study. When the children were 2.5 to 4.5 years of age, their parents reported how many hours of television during the week and weekend they watched.
The average was 8.8 hours per week at the onset of the study, a figure that increased on average by 6 hours over the next two years to reach 14,8 hours per week by the age of 4.5 year. Thus, 15 percent of the children participating in the study were already watching over 18 hours per week according to their parent’s reports at that time.
Researchers acknowledge that additional research is required to establish that television watching is directly causing the health issues they observed.
Scientists hope the study will encourage authorities to develop policies that target the environmental factors associated with childhood obesity. “The bottom line is that watching too much television – beyond the recommended amounts – is not good,” Pagani said.
Children over the age of two should not watch more than two hours of television per day, according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Source: University of Montreal