April 16, 2008 -- Children who spend more than two hours a day in front of a
TV or computer screen and do not get the recommended amount of exercise are taking a step in the
wrong direction when it comes to weight
gain, new research shows.
The finding, based on a study of 709 children, adds to the growing body of
evidence linking sedentary lifestyles and childhood
obesity and supports recommendations endorsed by the American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP) regarding physical activity and screen time.
Limiting media time such as TV viewing and video game playing to two hours
Boys should take a least 11,000 steps daily
Girls should take at least 13,000 steps a day
Kelly Laurson and colleagues from Iowa State University and the National
Institute on Media and the Family evaluated the AAP's recommendations on
children aged 7 to 12 to see how a combination of too much screen time and too
little exercise influenced their odds of being overweight.
The children answered questions about the time spent watching TV and playing
video games and wore pedometers to track the number of steps they took each
day. Some children met some of the AAP recommendations, but few met both.
Laurson's team also took body
mass index (BMI) measurements of each child, which revealed that about one
out of five children was overweight. Fewer than half met recommendations for
physical activity measured by a pedometer, and 27% of boys and 35% girls met
the screen time limit.
"Children not meeting the physical activity or exceeding the screen time
recommendations were 3-4 times more likely to be overweight than those
complying with both recommendations," Laurson says in a news release.
Among those meeting both recommendations:
10% of boys were overweight
20% of girls were overweight
Among those who did not meet either recommendation:
Preventing childhood obesity has become a national priority. Encouraging
children to live a healthy lifestyle and spend less time in front of the TV or
computer may help prevent weight gain that could lead to obesity.
Turnoff Week, April 21-27, 2008, promotes the idea that limiting screen time
and boosting physical activity can lead to healthier living. The idea is
sponsored in part by the Center for Screen Time Awareness (CSTA) and We Can!
(Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition), a science-based national
education program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"We know that the more time a child spends in front of the TV or
computer, the more likely he or she is to be overweight," Steven K. Galson,
MD, MPH, acting U.S. surgeon general, says in a news release. "Kids are
spending more time sitting in front of screens every day than they do anything
else except perhaps sleeping. For Turnoff Week, we are asking parents to turn
off the screens and get active with their kids."
According to the National Institutes of Health, children aged 8 to 18 spend
more than six hours a day in front of a TV or computer.