Excessive screen time is linked to childhood obesity
by Ashley Ebert, Exercise Physiologist
Screen time, lack of sleep, decreased physical activity and increased appetite are all factors associated with the obesity epidemic worldwide. Screen time has enabled us to lead sedentary lifestyles, which can contribute to other medical problems, specifically obesity. Kids will see 5,000-10,000 food ads in a year, most of which are fast food ads. Watching these ads may cause kids (and adults) to have cravings that can eventually lead to obesity in the long run. However, parents can have a huge and positive impact on kids’ health by supervising what they are watching, being a good role model, scheduling and enforcing screen times every day and incorporating daily active activities.
Screen time also plays a significant role in over eating by kids and adults. We all know that what we see on TV may influence what we do such as seeing a “Hardees” commercial and instantly craving the food they are advertising. Hunger is a feeling of pain, emptiness, or weakness induced by lack of food. Appetite is the desire of food. Now that you know the meaning of each word, you can work on using our Hungry Cues check list which will allow you to determine the difference between actual hunger and appetite. It is recommended to stay in the 3-7 range.
- Famished, Starving
- Really hungry, may feel tired, weak, hard to concentrate
- Hungry, stomach may grumble
- Somewhat hungry but could wait to eat
- Neither hungry or full, don’t need to eat
- Feel satisfied or somewhat full, no reason to eat more
- Politely full, you could eat more but you don’t have to
- Full don’t need to eat more
- Uncomfortably full
When following this chart also try eating at a slower pace. It takes up to 20 minutes before your brain can tell your stomach that you are full. So eat what’s on your plate and then try drinking a glass of water and wait 20 minutes before deciding to eat more.
“Make exercise a habit and priority everyday, so that your child can develop a healthy lifestyle.”
Another downfall of having too much screen time is that it decreases our activity level and increases sedentary lifestyle. The CDC encourages kids to get at least 60 minutes of activity everyday. The benefits that your child will gain from physical activity are strengthening heart, muscles, lungs, and bones; decreased blood sugar levels and blood pressure; controls weight, improves self-esteem, sleep,emotional well-being , and provides more energy throughout the day. To encourage your child to be more active try doing family activities together, such as taking walks around the neighborhood or going to the park on a regular basis. Make exercise a habit and priority everyday, so that your child can develop a healthy lifestyle. Programs are being developed across the country to combat the childhood obesity problem, such as BodyFit at Fort Sanders Health and Fitness. Body Fit is a new program for kids from the ages of 8-13 that helps kids develop a healthy lifestyle. If you need help getting your child active this would be a great opportunity for your child to join in on the fun!
Children who sleep less are much more likely to be obese than those who get a full 8 hours of sleep. Scientific studies have shown that, while controlling for issues such as diet, screen time, and socioeconomic status, sleep remains correlated to obesity in children. When kids don’t have a bed time each night it gives more opportunity to snack, and they tend to be more fatigued which makes them less likely to be active throughout the day. When kids are fatigued they crave more high fat and high carbohydrate foods which put them into a “food coma,” making them feel more fatigued and sluggish. Parents should aim for their kids to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night so that they are able to focus more in school, eat a healthier diet, and have more energy during the day.
Now that you have learned more about the effects of excess screen time and sleep, here are more ways you can help to reduce screen time for you and your child. Below are things you can do to help reduce screen time.
- Decrease TV/Screen time usage
- Do not have TV in children’s bedrooms
- Limit TV/Screen time in childcare programs
- At community centers and other organizations serving youth, offer activities that get kids moving as opposed to sedentary activities.
Ashley Ebert received a B.S. of Health Science at Clemson University. Ashley is an Exercise Physiologist at Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center, as well as a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. She is certified and a member of Maddog Spinning as well as Les Mills. Before moving to Knoxville, TN she worked with a childhood obesity clinic working with kids from the ages 6-21 for 2 years and created exercise classes 2x per week. Ashley enjoys running, cycling, and spending time with her husband and dog.