(NaturalNews) The severity of childhood obesity appears to be directly proportional to the amount of television children watch, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, a BioMed Central open-access journal. For every extra weekly hour of television watched, a child's waistline expands by an average of roughly half a millimeter, or about 0.02 inches, based on the study's findings.
Excessive television watching also results in reduced muscle mass and debilitated physical strength among children, affecting even their ability to jump, according to the findings published by Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick and her colleagues at the University of Montreal (UM), and its affiliated Saint-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital. Based on a sample size of 1,314 children who were two years of age at the beginning of the study, those that watched the most television were also the most likely to be the fattest and weakest among their peers.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers first asked the child participants' parents about their children's television-watching habits at different age intervals, and compared this data to the children's waist sizes. The research team also tested each child's ability to do the standing long jump at different age intervals, a commonly used method to gauge and assess an individual's physical strength.
At the beginning of the study, each child participant's average weekly rate of television watching was 8.8 hours, which is about 340 percent higher than the recommended maximum amount of two hours or less per week. By the end of the study; however, when the children were around four years of age, the average rate ballooned to nearly 15 hours per week, with as many as 15 percent of the children watching more than 18 hours of television per week.
The moral of the story - Watch TV, get fat
The results? For each additional hour of television watched weekly by a child at the conclusion of the study compared to the amount watched at the beginning, there was an average waist size increase of 0.02 inches. The waist size of a child who watches about 18 hours of television per week at the age of four-and-a-half, in other words, will expand by about one-third of an inch by the time that same child reaches 10 years of age.
"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," said Dr. Linda Pagani, co-author of the study. "The bottom line is that watching too much television -- beyond the recommended amounts -- is not good. Watching television not only displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits but also places [children] at risk of learning inaccurate information about proper eating."
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