Watch 2 Hours or Less of 'Recreational' Screen Time Daily!
Does TV make us fat? What the research shows.
By Heather Fuselier, Certified Wellness Coach
Television is a favorite pastime in the U.S., and after work and sleep, TV viewing takes up just over half of all leisure time. But the research is clear that too much screen time increases the risk of carrying too much weight. Sedentary activities like watching television, using computers and smart phones, and playing video games burn few calories and can start to crowd out time that could be spent being active.
But we’re also seeing evidence that watching TV can actually promote obesity by changing what and how much we eat. In fact, there’s good reason why many organizations recommend that children and teens limit TV/media time to no more than two hours per day.
- Studies that follow children over long periods of time consistently show that increases in television viewing lead to increases in weight.
- Research reveals that children who have televisions in their bedrooms are more likely to gain weight than children who don’t.
- Two studies that followed children from birth found that TV viewing in childhood is an accurate predictor of obesity in adulthood.
Why? The combination of lack of physical activity and the aggressive marketing of junk-food children is a lose-lose formula for families. A study that tracked the viewing habits and change in BMI of 1,100 young children over a five-year period showed that the more hours per day of commercial TV children watched, the more likely they were to have a relative increase in BMI.
So how do you limit screen time and avoid its contribution to obesity? First, make sure that the programming your children view is age-appropriate and of high quality. Watch television and play computer games with them so you are aware of the potential impact it can have. Second, avoid commercials when you can.
Recording favorite programs on DVR and fast-forwarding through commercials can help alleviate their impression on our decisions. And finally, encourage your local television station to avoid placing advertisements for fast food products in programs designed for children.
There are many educational and developmental games, television programs, and apps out there for kids that are great ways to inspire learning and creativity. But their benefit ends if using them replaces too much time that should be spent outdoors being active. Be choosy about your screen time, and then turn off the tube and enjoy the best show on Earth: nature!
Screen time, whether the television, computer, or video games is one of the largest contributors to childhood obesity.
Children and TV: Limiting your child's screen time
Tips to Reduce Screen Time
Limit Screen Time (PDF)
Healthy Habits for TV, Video Games, and the Internet
Limit children's screen time, expert urges