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Throw Away Your Television

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Dec 04, 2007

With more than one-third of America’s children overweight, we have TV to thank (more importantly, our choice to indulge in it).   Throw away your television (or at least leave it mostly off) for two reasons.

One, kids are burning fewer calories because they aren’t exercising while they watch hours of TV.   Most parents remember childhood being about riding bikes and playing sports.   Today’s kids spend an average of four hours a day watching TV or videos, almost 2 hours listening to music, and at least an hour on the computer.   Although some of that time overlaps (kids doing two things at once), none of them involve stretching either the muscles or the brain.

Two, while they’re watching all that TV, they’re being bombarded with their favorite characters such as SpongeBob and Shrek selling burgers and fries, Skittles, and Pop Tarts.   Kids aged 2 to 7 see 12 food ads a day–that’s 4,400 per year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

It’s not that hard to get kids off soda.   And it’s not that hard to control their TV watching, either.   Parents can and should set limits–it’s not exclusively the schools’ job.   We have to compensate for funding cuts that mean that gym classes are becoming the exception rather than the rule.   When they get home from school, they should be moving their bodies, doing something they like so they learn that being fit is fun, not a chore.

A contributing factor to kids’s bones bowing and breaking at skyrocketing rates is that fewer than one-quarter of them are getting enough calcium–and what they do get is robbed by the massive amount of phosphorus in soft drinks.   But also, you need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and harden bones.   And kids certainly aren’t outside getting Vitamin D from the sun.   They’re inside on the computer, playing video games, and watching TV.

Finally, setting an example is critical.   Obesity expert Dr. Bob Whitaker at Temple University says, “‘Do as I say, not as I do’ didn’t work with smoking and it won’t work with exercise and eating either.   If you want your children to be healthy and fit, you must live the lifestyle, too.”   We might start with this simple step: throw away your television, or at least turn it off a lot more.

Posted in: Exercise, Parenting, Research, Weight Management

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