A new research by experts at the University of Montreal, in Canada, indicates that each extra hour children between the ages of 2 and 4 spend watching TV contributes to an increase in their waist circumference by the time they reach fourth grade.
The same study revealed that watching more TV also contributes to declining performances in sports around the fourth grade. This is just the latest in a series of scientific investigations linking media exposure to weight gain later on in life.
These findings may also go a long way towards explaining the rampant spread of obesity through developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. In the former, for example, only a third of the general population is of normal weight; the rest are either obese or overweight.
Details of the study appear in the latest issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, which is an open-access publication edited by BioMed Central. UM expert Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick was the lead author of the paper.
UM scientist Dr. Linda Pagani was the senior author of the research. The study was conducted by gathering data from more than 1,300 children and their parents, so that test sample is representative for the general population, PsychCentral
“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,” the research team writes in the new paper.
All kids in the study were asked to undergo the standing long jump tests, which is designed to measure something called “explosive leg strengths.” This test is essential for predicting performances in sports including football and basketball.
“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 research group goes on to say.
“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,” the team concludes.