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Couch Potato Kids Affecting Future Health

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By Rachel Derry
Staff Writer LIFamilies

Parents worry about their children being couch potatoes. They worry that inactivity today will lead their children to be lazy or overweight later in life. What parents don’t know is that spending too much time in front of the TV or the computer screen may be affecting more than just their weight and stamina.

A study conducted in Australia concluded that children who spend more time in front of a screen are more likely to have narrow retinal arteries than children who spend more time doing physical activity. The width of the arteries can be a sign of the overall cardiovascular health of the body. The narrowing of the retinal arteries may not currently affect the vision of the children, but they are a future sign of hypertension, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

As part of the study, researchers observed the behaviors of the participants, whether active or sedentary. They then took digital photographs of the arteries in the back of their eyes to measure the average vessel size.

Of 1,492 six year old children observed, their average time spent outside, or on physical activity, was roughly 39 minutes a day. The average time that these same children spent in front of a screen was 1.9 hours a day. The same study showed that children who spent at least an hour doing physical activities had noticeably wider arteries than the children staying in front of the screen. If parents were to encourage their children to spend more time in physical activity than in front of the TV or computer screen, their retinal arteries would actually improve.

The narrowing of the arteries is an indicator that even children can be affecting their overall cardiovascular health at such an early age. It can also be an indicator of children who are more likely to have early onset hypertension, or high blood pressure.

The screen is not the problem, researchers pointed out; it is the lack of physical activity that is induced by the desire to sit in front of the screens. These behaviors also increase the likelihood of sedentary snacking, which can also increase children’s odds of overeating and becoming overweight.

What can be done? Children should be encouraged to spend more time outside participating in activities. When time constrains allow, local outings such as nature trails and wildlife preserves should be taken full advantage of. Local youth groups and parks may also provide activities for families or children to join in and get moving. Participating will not only improve the overall health of the child, but possibly the whole family.

Long Island Health, Fitness & Beauty Articles > Couch Potato Kids Affecting Future Health

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