Watching too much TV at the age of 2 could translate to unhealthy lifestyle later in life

Our parents told us not to watch too much television when we were young. It turns out that they were right all along as a new study suggested that watching too much television when we were young could affect our eating habits as you grow up. Researchers at Université de Montréal’s School of Psychoeducation also added that it could even affect our school life as it could also lead to poorer performance at school.

In a new longitudinal study published in Preventive Medicine, graduate student Isabelle Simonato and her supervisor, Professor Linda Pagani, looked at a birth cohort of nearly 2,000 Quebec boys and girls born between spring 1997 and 1998.

The students were monitored since they were 5 months old as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. When they reached 2 years of age, their parents reported on their daily television habits. Then, at age 13, the youths themselves reported on their dietary habits and behavior in school.

“Not much is known about how excessive screen exposure in early childhood relates to lifestyle choices in adolescence,” said Pagani. “This birth cohort is ideal, because the children were born before smartphones and tablets, and before any pediatric viewing guidelines were publicized for parents to follow. They were raising their children with TV and seeing it as harmless. This makes our study very naturalistic, with no outside guidelines or interference – a huge advantage.”

Watching TV makes a sedentary lifestyle since it doesn’t require much effort on your part. Simonato believes that when toddlers watch television it encourages them to live a sedentary lifestyle. At a very young age, they would prefer to do effortless activity and thus would affect their lifestyle as they grow.

In their study, the researchers found that every hourly increase in toddlers’ TV viewing forecasted bad eating habits down the road – an increase of 8 percent at age 13 for every hourly increase at age 2. In questionnaires, those early-TV adolescents reported consuming more French fries, prepared meats and cold cuts, white bread, regular and diet soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, salty or sweet snacks, and desserts.

“This study tells us that overindulgent lifestyle habits begin in early childhood and seem to persist throughout the life course,” Pagani noted. “An effortless existence creates health risks. For our society that means a bigger healthcare burden associated with obesity and lack of cardiovascular fitness.”

Here are some recommendation for you to encourage your child to live a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Choose water as a drink. If possible try to lessen their intake of fat milk.
  2. Give them more fruits and vegetables.
  3. Turn off the TV and let them play and give them a toy to play with.

Sources: News Medical, Healthy Kids


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