Children’s Obesity Worsened by ‘Screen Time,’ Parents’ Denial

There is a clear association between a “reduction in TV hours and decreased weight gain over one year” for adolescents, yet many Americans fail to even acknowledge whether their children are a healthy weight.

About one in three American children are either overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association.[1. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_304175.pdf] Decreasing daily TV consumption is a simple way to prevent steady, prolonged weight gainbecause it inhibits the development of bad habits.

These findings, reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, are more significant in children than adults due to differing stages of physical and emotional development.[2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827122319.htm]

Recognizing a Problem

It is fairly common knowledge that Americans—adults and children alike—are getting heavier. Yet, many parents hesitate to acknowledge obesity in their children, despite its connection to poor health.

A study of more than 100 children with type 2 diabetes conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University evaluated how willing parents were to acknowledge their child’s weight problem.[3. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080304173130.htm]

Eighty-seven percent of kids in the study were clinically obese. Yet only 41 percent of parents said the kids were “very overweight.”

The study also revealed that, of all parents who said their diabetic child’s weight was “about right,” 40 percent had children heavier than 95 percent of other kids the same age.

When glued to the tube, children often eat mindlessly and excessively, usually preferring sugar-sweetened snacks and beverages to healthy whole foods. The detrimental effects of this sedentary lifestyle have been known for years, and limiting TV time presents a simple, crucial first step to helping children maintain a healthy body weight. According to the American Heart Association, “overweight children have a 70-80 percent chance of staying overweight their entire lives.”

Getting Active

It is very important to set a strong example. Children are more likely to change their sedentary habits and get active when supported by their parents, and every lifestyle benefits from increased physical activity.[4. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504171919.htm]

Sitting in front of the TV curbs kids’ desire to be active, which prevents them from burning off the calories they consume while watching TV. Lack of physical activity also decreases muscular endurance, lung capacity and even hampers children’s ability to think critically and creatively.

Obviously, exercise can also help kids maintain a healthy weight, but it also decreases physical and emotional stress, promotes healthy neurodevelopment, and regulates hormone function. Perhaps most importantly, increased physical activity can prevent children from adopting bad habits like slurping down soda and mindlessly munching on French fries.

To get your kids active, involve them in your exercise routine or start playing a recreational sport they may also enjoy. Though your efforts may not last a lifetime, it can make a big difference in your child’s quality of life today.

What You Can Do

Healthy habits start when you accept the truth, and then use it as motivation. All the knowledge in the world means little without action. To help your family get in better shape, accountability and support are essential.

To learn how to get your family in shape efficiently and cost-effectively, contact your nearest Maximized Living wellness doctor today. Be sure to ask about the upcoming Community Dinner event, where you can learn from other patients who have improved their health through the principles of Maximized Living.