Monday, February 25, 2013

Does TV Make Us Fat? Ways to reduce TV time (but still chill out together)

Is this family on their way to increased weight?
Family Movie Night! Make the popcorn (did you know you can air-pop it in the microwave with a paper bag?), put on your comfy clothes, and settle in for something fun that will erase away the stress of a busy day. Ahhhhh..... But wait! If you also spent time updating your Facebook page today, let your kids use the iPad to play Angry Birds while you waited for that doctor appointment, or had the television on in the background during breakfast, that movie might need to be a 30-minute program rather than a full-length feature. 

Why? Well, more and more research is showing that too much screen time increases the risk of obesity. Sedentary activities like watching television, using computers and smart phones, and playing video games burn few calories and replace time that could be spent being active. And, TV can actually promote obesity by encouraging us to eat more junk food based on the advertisements we see.

Did you know?

·      Studies that follow children over long periods of time consistently show that increases in television viewing lead to increases in weight.

·      Research reveals that children who have televisions in their bedrooms are more likely to gain weight than children who don’t.

·      Two studies that followed children from birth found that TV viewing in childhood is an accurate predictor of obesity in adulthood.

So how can you keep family movie night without contributing to poor health?  First, be choosy about what you watch on television and set a timer for video games.  Avoid commercials when you can, and fast-forward through them when possible to reduce their impression on our decisions. And, encourage your local television station to avoid placing advertisements for fast food products in programs designed for children.

Watching TV as a family is fun and can provide necessary downtime for everyone. But as in most things, too much of it can detract from the value it brings. Swap out one movie night for board games! Play charades and act out your favorite scenes from movies you love. Or, cuddle up with a great audio book and let your imaginations paint the scenes!  

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