MONDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- The amount of TV preschoolers watch seems to contribute to what their waist size and athletic abilities will be when they reach fourth grade, researchers report.
The study, from researchers at the University of Montreal and Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital in Canada, found that every hour of TV children aged 2½ to 4½ years old watched not only added to their waistline but also affected their ability to perform in sports.
"We already knew that there is an association between preschool television exposure and the body fat of fourth-grade children, but this is the first study to describe more precisely what that association represents," study senior author Dr. Linda Pagani, said in a university news release.
In conducting the study, the researchers asked the parents of more than 1,300 children aged 2½ to 4½ years about their preschoolers' weekly TV habits. They also measured the children's waists and had the kids perform a standing long jump to assess their muscular fitness level.
The study authors noted that the standing long jump test is useful in assessing athletic ability because many sports, including football, skating and basketball, require similar "explosive leg strength."
The investigators found that the children watched an average of nearly nine hours of TV each week when they were 2½ years old. By the time the children were 4½ years old, they were watching an average of nearly 15 hours of TV each week.
The findings revealed that each hour of TV 2½-year-olds watched per week was consistent with a reduction of about one-third of a centimeter (0.13 inches) in the distance they were able to jump.
"The pursuit of sports by children depends in part on their perceived athletic competence," the study's lead author, Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick, said in the news release. "Behavioral dispositions can become entrenc
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