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Articles by Dr. Walt Larimore

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Dr. Walt Larimore

Walt Larimore, M.D. has been called “one of America’s best known family physicians.” He is a nationally-known and nationally sought after speaker and health expert. read bio

Obesity: Television, Video Games and Your Children’s Health

A myriad of relatively new entertainment options have made a sedentary lifestyle all too common among our youth. Most parents vastly underestimate the amount of television that their children watch. A 2000 survey showed that the average American child spends about twenty-five hours a week in front of the television. And while there is less data for time spent online or playing video games, without question, the amount of time is increasing.

So what do all these statistics mean? Most parents have no clue how drastically just viewing hours of television and spending more hours in front of a screen playing video games can harm their children’s health. And that includes all aspects of their health.

When children plop themselves in front of the television, physiological changes slow down their metabolism and increase their appetite. Researchers have found fairly direct correlations between the amount of time a child spends in front of the TV and the risk and degree of obesity he or she faces. According to Harvard University’s long-running Nurses’ Health Study of fifty thousand women, for every two hours of TV a person watches the risk of becoming obese jumps 23 percent, while the risk of developing diabetes increases 14 percent.

For every hour a child plays video games, he or she may double his or her risk of obesity. The amount of television a child watches corresponds directly to the risk of developing serious health problems as an adult. Television viewing between the ages of five and fifteen years increases the risk of high cholesterol levels, smoking, poor fitness, and being overweight.

Other consequences for children who watch too much television include: lower creativity, increased blood pressure, decreased family interaction, lower school performance, and more sociopath behavior.

And consider this: Watching TV burns fewer calories than reading or “doing nothing.“ The child watching TV burns almost as few calories as a sleeping child.

The American Dietetic Association has discovered that not only do parents underestimate the amount of time a child spends watching television, they also imagine that their kids are not eating in front of the TV. But when children are asked, they reply, “We almost always eat when we watch TV.” In addition, the types of foods they eat in front of the television tend to be more processed, higher in saturated fat and sugars, and nutritionally barren. A study of third and fifth graders at California public schools found that on average, elementary school children consumed roughly 20 percent of their daily calories while watching TV. They also tended to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and more consumed more soda and fast food while the TV was on.

So for the health of your children and your family set limits on the amount of time spent in front of the screen.

Used with permission from the book, SuperSized Kids: How to Rescue Your Child from the Obesity Threat by Walt Larimore, MD; Sherri Flynt, MPH, RD, LD with Steve Halliday (Center Street).

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.


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