Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Too much TV goes straight to kids’ waists, study finds

Lynne Carpenter/Thinkstock

We all know too much screen time is a bad thing for children. Now there's another reason to turn off the TV.

Canadian researchers are reporting in a new study that children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to have a larger waist circumference and be less likely to participate in sports.

Specifically, the study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found each hour of TV watched by children from ages 2 to 4 contributed to their waist size by the end of Grade 4.

Story continues below advertisement

By the time children in the study were 4.5 years old, their waist size increased by about half a millimetre for every additional hour of TV they were watching compared with when they were 2.5.

"The bottom line is that watching too much television – beyond the recommended amounts – is not good," Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal, senior author of the study, said in a press release.

Recommendations published last year by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology suggested that children and teens spend no more than two hours a day sitting, including while watching TV, outside of school hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children should not watch more than two hours of TV a day. Those under age 2 should not watch any TV, the organization says.

The new study was conducted with 1,314 children from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. Researchers asked parents how many hours of TV the kids watched.

In addition to having slightly larger waist sizes, children who watched the most TV also had decreased athletic ability. Researchers found that each hour of TV children watch reduced the distance they could jump by one-third of a centimetre.

The distance is short, and the difference in waist size for children who watch the most TV may seem small. But over the course of many years, those changes could start to have a significant impact, researchers said.

"These findings support clinical suspicions that more screen time in general contributes to the rise in excess weight in our population, thus providing essential clues for effective approaches to its eradication," Dr. Pagani said.

Story continues below advertisement

How much TV do your kids watch each day? Are you concerned about the impact on their health?

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨