In the study, kindergartners and first-graders who watched as little as one hour of television a day were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to children who watched TV for less than 60 minutes each day.
Scientists analyzed data from 11,113 kids in kindergarten. Lifestyle factors that could affect a child’s educational performance were collected from parents, including the number of hours of television children watched. Children’s weight and height were also measured.
Study results revealed that U.S. kindergartners watched an average of 3.3 hours of TV a day. Both kindergartners and first-graders who watched one to two hours or more than two hours daily had significantly higher body mass indexes than those who watched less than 30 minutes or 30-60 minutes a day.
In both kindergarten and first grade, children viewing as little as one hour of TV daily were 50-60 percent more likely to be overweight and 58 percent to 73 percent more likely to be obese compared to those watching less than an hour.
What’s more, kids who watched one hour or more of TV daily were also 39 percent more likely to become overweight and 86 percent more likely to become obese between kindergarten and first grade.
So, what’s the connection? While the study didn’t divulge a direct reason, prior experts have expressed concerns about the tube’s ability to reduce physical activity, decrease sleep quality and quantity and increase eating opportunities in children.
“Given overwhelming evidence connecting the amount of time TV viewing and unhealthy weight, pediatricians and parents should attempt to restrict childhood TV viewing,” said study author Mark D. DeBoer, MD, MSc, MCR, associate professor of pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Virginia.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting children and teens to less than two hours of screen time each day. Dr. DeBoer, however, said even that might be too much.
Childhood obesity affects one-third of American kids, who are at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and joint pain. More than 7 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls can be classified as extremely obese, according to a recent Kaiser Permanente report.