3 Studies Give Parents Insight into Healthy Activity Level, Eating for Children

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • If you’re a parent, you’re probably getting focused on getting your children ready for school. But there’s new research that you need to be aware of to make sure that your kids prosper physically as well as academically.

    Television Watching vs. Fitness

    A new longitudinal study out of New York University and the University of Montreal is believed to be the first that links the relationship between how much time a child watches television and explosive leg strength, which is a sign of athletic ability.

    The researchers studied 1,314 Canadian children, according to a Los Angeles Times article. The children’s parents were questioned about how much time the children watched television when they were 23 months old and again at 53 months old (slightly less than four-and-one-half years old).  The children were then asked to do the standing long jump as second-graders as a measure of explosive leg strength, speed and power. When they were in fourth grade, the children’s waistline was measured using a tape measure.

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    The researchers’ analysis found that each hour of television per week that was watched when the child was 29 months old led to diminished performance in the standing long jump. Interestingly, the children who watched an additional hour per week of television between the ages of 29 months and 53 months performed even worse in the standing long jump. They also had a measurable increase in waist size, which indicates that these children have a strong chance of becoming obese.

    Active Video Games

    So perhaps you’re thinking that getting your kids active through video games would work well to increase their fitness. Some research indicates that this approach may not be the best one to take.

    New research out of Michigan State University found that these “exergames” are not as good as actual exercise. This meta-analysis of 41 studies on active video games found that only three that indicated that these games were effective in increasing physical activity. “Some people are very enthusiastic about exergames,” said Dr. Wei Peng, an assistant professor in telecommunication, information studies and media who led the study. “They think this will be the perfect solution to solve the problem of sedentary behavior. But it’s not that easy.”

    The games provided only light activity. However, these games can provide a foundation to encourage sedentary people to become more active. “The games do have the potential to be useful especially for populations that are more suitable to light-to-moderate activity – seniors, for example,” Peng said. She also thinks the games can be used for rehabilitation as well.


    Children's Self-Control When Eating


    Another study found that children who displayed self-control when eating had a good chance of not being obese as an adult. In this study out of the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University of California-Berkeley, researchers looked at three decades of data from 653 people who had completed an instant gratification behavior analysis when they were four years old. In this analysis that was conducted between 1968 and 1974, youngsters were given a cookie or marshmallow and then were told that they would get a second treat if they resisted eating the first treat for a specific period of time.

  • The researchers checked back in on the study participants when they reached their 30s to look at their body mass index, based on their height and weight. They found that the children who were able to delay grabbing that sweet treat as a child had a lower BMI. Furthermore, the analysis linked every minute that the children were able to delay enjoying the sweet treat to a lower BMI.

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    So the lesson for parents is that to help their children succeed physically, teach them to practice self-control while eating, turn off the television (and active video games) and get active.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Journal of Pediatrics. (2012). Children’s self-control is associated with their body mass index as adults.


    Lynch, R. (2012). Want your kids to be an athlete? Turn off the TV, study suggests. Los Angeles Times.

    Michigan State University. (2012). ‘Exergames’ not perfect, but can lead to more exercise.

    PubMed.gov. (2012). Early childhood television viewing predicts explosive leg strength and waist circumference by middle childhood. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Published On: August 20, 2012