Children aged two to four who watch over two hours of television a day risk larger waistlines by the time they are ten, according by a new study by Canadian researchers.
The study, published in a BioMed Central journal, found that children should not watch more than two hours of television a day. Every extra weekly hour, according to researchers, could add half a millimetre to a child’s waist circumference and reduce muscle fitness.
In a study of 1,314 children, researchers discovered that the average amount of television watched was 8.8 hours a week.
This increased on average by six hours over the next two years, to reach 14.8 hours a week by age 4 and a half, with fifteen percent of the children studied watching more than 18 hours per week.
The findings demonstrated that at 4.5 years of age, the effect of watching 18 hours of television per week would add an extra 7.6mm to their waist measurement.
In addition to this finding, researchers also discovered that muscular may be decreased by increased television viewing. On a standing long jump test, each child’s muscular fitness and athletic ability was measured.
Results showed that the extra weekly hour of television could decrease the distance a child is able to jump from standing by 0.36cm, yet the researchers believe that more information is required to work out whether watching television is directly responsible for the health issues they observed.
Dr Linda Pagani, study co-author from the University of Montreal, told the BBC that her findings were a warning about the factors which could lead to childhood obesity.
"The bottom line is that watching too much television - beyond the recommended amounts - is not good," Dr Pagani said.
She blamed a more sedentary lifestyle and pre-prepared calorie dense foods as contributing to weight increases, and warns that habits and behaviours can become entrenched in small children.
"Watching more television not only displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits but also places them at risk of learning inaccurate information about proper eating."