Walking couch potato kids not fatter!

2013Jan25_ChildrensFitness_AChild couch potatoes may not be quite as much at risk of getting fat than their worried parents suspect. Studies show that there is nothing wrong with a bit of lounging on the sofa after all, as long as kids are are getting exercise in at some point. This is the finding of a recent study that shows there isn’t any correlation between screen time and obesity in children and teens. It is more about how active they are the rest of the time. While this may make exasperated moms and dads less concerned about banning too much lazing on the sofa, there is still no excuse for doing no activity at all.

For some parents, when their kids reach a certain age, more specifically become teenagers, it seems that they actually start to meld into the sofa; becoming so intertwined that it is impossible to prise them off. They sit, among the cozy cushions playing games, calling friends or simply lounging, however sunny it might be out of doors. It is all too easy to worry that your beloved offspring, who is sitting with his video games or watching TV might be setting himself up for physical, and even psychological issues in future. Is your bundle of joy going to turn into a massive unfit lump with no social skills or idea how to relate to anyone who is not on the TV screen?

More screen time doesn’t increase body fat in children
It seems that you don’t need to worry all that much. A lead researcher from Chicago’s Northwestern University and researchers from Iowa University looked at children aged eight, 11, 13 and 15 over a nine year period. The study involved groups of 277 boys and girls. Whereas those exercising less put on weight and had more body fat, ranging from over 3kg in girls and 5 kg in boys, the amount of time sitting around ┬ádidn’t seem to have a great impact.

Extended sitting periods can create problems for adults
It is a different story for adults. Even if they are regulars in the gym and generally active, recent research, suggests that sitting for extended periods of time can have a really detrimental effect on health and weight issues. Regardless of whether you exercise regularly or not, the fact that you sit for long periods without getting up and moving around, does have a negative impact. But in youngsters, even those camped out on the sofa for hours at a time there is no massive increase in body fat, as long as they do some exercise at some point in their free time. Although not conclusive, it could be that adults in sedentary jobs need to think about stretching their legs more often than their idle teens.

No link between sofa time and activity level
Another study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dealing with younger kids between the ages of six and 11, ┬ásuggests that there is no real link between exercise and screen time. In other words, turfing youngsters off the sofa may not result in them doing more activities or exercise. Indeed they are more likely to go and lounge somewhere else, or on a friend’s sofa. What many parents might want to think about is how they are encouraging activities, rather than ordering children to get up and go and do something.

Taking a proactive approach might be the key. If you child likes to laze around then you might want to direct them from the sofa by encouraging them to take up an activity. Kids don’t tend to drift into activity of their own volition. Organized events and fitness sessions might be the solution to fill their time. And if you join them too, you can get fitter yourself, while enjoying some bonding time with your child.

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