Just One Hour Of TV Can Cause Childhood Obesity? Probably Not

Can just one hour of TV per day raise childhood obesity risks? That’s the startling new claim making its way around the Internet following a recent health study. Dr. Mark DeBoer, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia, claims that even a little television can have negative consequences for growing children.

“Children who watch one to two hours of TV a day, as opposed to those who watch less, are more likely to be overweight and obese at kindergarten and first grade.”

But why exactly does even one hour of TV per day supposedly raise a child’s obesity risk? The truth is it doesn’t, not exactly. Before you panic and throw out the television, there’s an aspect of the study not found in any of the sensationalist headlines.

“It’s important to note, however, that the study wasn’t designed to prove that watching TV actually caused children to become overweight or obese. It could only reveal an association between TV watching and a child’s weight.”

Apparently, this study featured 11,0000 kindergarten-age children. It’s possible to argue that the amount of children and the specific age group is too small to draw stronger conclusions and that more research is needed.

Although the inference that can be drawn from the link between even one hour of TV and obesity is worrying, there’s good news for worried parents. The American Heart Association stated that just one hour of exercise or physical activity per day is enough to keep children healthy.

“Just like in adults, increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits.”

“All children age two and older should [p]articipate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.”

“If your child or children don’t have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.”

It’s not enough to turn off the TV; you have to make sure your kids are getting their hour or so of regular physical activity each day. It can be two fifteen minute walks and a friendly game of tag. Perhaps enroll them in swim or yoga class.

It’s not merely about watching TV; it’s about the healthy (and unhealthy habits) that children learn early on, which can raise their obesity risks significantly. Teaching your child good habits in terms of what they eat and when they exercise can counter practically any supposed risk. Yes, even that one hour of television.

[Image Credit: Chris Isherwood]