A recent study conducted by the University College of London (UCL) found that children who lead inactive lives are likely to grow up to become middle-aged couch potatoes.
Researchers compared the TV viewing habits of more than 6,000 people born in a single week in 1970, at the ages of 10 and 42. The study gathered information on the economic circumstances, health, physical, educational and social development of people. Their height and weight were recorded, as were their parents' occupations.
Later, they were asked how much time they spent watching TV and on a range of physical activities and sports. They were also asked to assess their health and weight.
The study shows that the children who watched a lot of TV aged 10 were 42 percent more likely to spend more than three hours a day in front of the screen as adults, than those who watched relatively little television in childhood.
The 42-year-olds who watched TV for at least three hours a day were more likely to be in only ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ health and to rate themselves as either overweight or obese.
Parents should increase children's physical activity to ensure they become fit and healthy adults. They should encourage their children to do something active to displace TV, such as going out for walks.
"If you can't go outside, try playing computer games that require physical activity; anything that gets people up and expending energy rather than sitting down and snacking," said Dr. Smith, of the UCL epidemiology and public health department, which conducted the study.
The study authors acknowledge that for today's children TV viewing is often replaced by time on computers, smart phones or tablets. But Dr. Smith stressed the issues are the same, that computers and phones are "just a different way of sitting down and relaxing", and parents need to encourage children to be more active.
The study also noticed that parents who are manual workers are more likely to be physically active at work and may then compensate for this by spending more time sitting down during their leisure hours. This however leads to their children modeling their parent’s leisure activity patterns.