Approach to Stop
Kids From Watching TV
-- Want to pry your fat 10-year-old away from the television and
burn the lard off him at the same time? Just hook the TV up so
that he has to pedal a bike to turn it on and keep it on, says
a new study.
watched much less TV when they had to exercise to see their shows;
they also lost much more fat than kids who were allowed to watch
TV freely, the study found.
10 children had each watched an average of slightly more than
20 hours of television a week when the study began. But for the
five could only watch while riding a stationary bike, their viewing
time dropped to an average of about 90 minutes a week. In addition,
the bicyclists exercised a bit more and reduced their body fat
the national problem of obesity isn't going to be eradicated by
TV bikes; it's more the idea that environment can have a strong
and powerful influence if it's systematically changed," says the
study's lead author, Myles S. Faith, an associate research scientist
at the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital
in New York City. "Parents of overweight children should be aware
that the environment they create can have a strong impact on behavior."
of overweight and obese children has risen in recent years: about
21 percent of Hispanic, 18 percent of black, and 15 percent of
white children currently are obese. A number of studies have linked
this rise in obesity to an increase in watching television, which,
in turn, is associated with less physical activity and more eating.
considered obese if their Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) are above the
95th percentile for their age. BMIs are ratios based on height
and weight. For instance, a child who is 5 feet tall and weighs
155 pounds would be obese.
divided the children, who were about 10 years old, into two groups.
For 10 weeks, half the children could only watch television when
they were pedaling the bike at a "moderately intense" level; the
other half could watch TV when they wanted though a stationary
bike was in the room, as well. On average, the kids with the so-called
"TV bikes" watched only 1.6 hours of television a week, compared
with the 21 hours a week watched by the unrestricted kids. And
where the children with TV bikes pedaled an average 50.5 minutes
a week through the study's 10 weeks, those with regular stationary
bikes started out strong the first week, with 53 minutes, but
ended up pedaling an average of a little more than one minute
in the last weeks of the study.
age-old situation -- you put the bike out, you pedal a little
while, and then you put it in the closet and use it for a coat
hanger," Faith says.
aren't sure whether the exercise was the only factor, but the
BMIs of the children with TV bikes dropped from an average 30.2
to 29.9, while in the control group, the BMIs rose, from 26 to
27. Total percentage of body fat in the TV bike group dropped
from 44.5 to 43.3 percent, while the percentage of fat in the
control group rose from 37.1 to 38 percent, Faith says.
admittedly didn't cover all the bases. The children may have been
physically active when they weren't watching television, and the
researchers said they didn't really know what the kids were doing
with their extra time.
activity and decreasing sedentary activity are critical when you're
fighting obesity, says Dr. Stephen Daniels, a professor of pediatrics
at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Children's
Hospital Medical Center.
watching is one of the big sinks of sedentary time. It's a big
activity, but there's no activity in it, and what's worse, it's
often associated with eating," Daniels says.
"contingency television" idea could backfire, he adds, because
it continues to establish strong television viewing habits in
"We try to
offer creative rewards that aim kids in the right direction,"
Daniels says. For example, most kids would put spending time with
a parent at the top of a wish list; pairing that with a physical
habit creates all kinds of healthy patterns for both parent and
child, he notes.
But the study
does point to another useful fact, Daniels adds. When you make
television watching too costly to kids, kids will choose not to
see TV watching as an inalienable right and something they can't
do without, but, in fact, without it they seem to do just fine,"
use of television might be what Faith calls "contingency television."
Parents can balance kids' lives more by offering television rewards
in exchange for taking part in physical activity, he says.
more on children and obesity, try
KidSource. You can also try the
American Dietetic Association for tips on healthy eating,
including "Fat Facts for Tots" and "Healthful, No-Cook Snacks
Reference Source 101