While it may be denigrating, the term "couch potato" often refers to those who spend excessive amounts of time lounging around, most often in front of the television and the imagery of that of a potato is quite fitting because invariably couch potatoes tend to be overweight. Of course, while this may sound spurious, a new research suggests that there is truth to the term and that sitting in front of the television for long periods of time can lead to obesity in children.
According to the new study, conducted by researchers from the University of Montreal, TV habits in children can predict their eventual weight and size and that the amount of time spent in front of the television can translate into larger waistlines.
The study, published in the journal, BioMed Central, stated that for children aged between 2 and 4, every extra weekly hour of television watched could add half a millimetre to their waist by the age of 10 and this could also reduce their muscle fitness. The study tracked the TV habits of some 1,314 children, and found, at the beginning of the study, on an average, children aged 2 were watching some 8.8 hours of television a week, but as the study progressed, with the age of the children at four-and-a-half, this increased by almost 6 hours to 14.8 hours of television a week. The study also showed that in some cases, around 15 percent of the 4-year-olds, children were watching up to 18 hours of television a week.
This 18-hour viewing time in 41/2-year-olds was seen to translate, by the age of 10, into an extra 7.6mm on the children’s waistlines. According to The American Academy of Paediatrics, children aged 2 and up should not watch more than 2 hours of television a day.
But it wasn’t just increased waistlines that were noted as conducting a standard long jump test on the children, it was also observed that the children’s performance had decreased, with an extra hour of weekly TV decreasing the children’s jumps by some 0.36cm.
Speaking about the study, co-author Dr. Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal said, "The bottom line is that watching too much television - beyond the recommended amounts - is not good. Across the occidental world, there have been dramatic increases in unhealthy weight for both children and adults in recent decades. Our standard of living has also changed in favour of more easily prepared, calorie-dense foods and sedentary practices. Watching more television not only displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits but also places them at risk of learning inaccurate information about proper eating."
The researcher did add though that further study was needed to better understand the link between TV viewing and the health issues they observed.