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When my oldest daughter was just two, she started turning off the TV whenever she walked past it. "I can't do anything when it's on," she said, meaning that TV distracted her from doing the things she really wanted to be doing: playing, reading, and drawing. Kids -- they teach us the darnedest things.
A recent paper out of University of Bristol and published online in BMC Public Health suggests that turning off the TV is one of the best things parents can do for their kids' physical health -- even if parents themselves are committed couch potatoes.
Researchers recruited fifth grade students and their parents from 40 schools in Bristol and hooked them up to accelerometers -- small devices that measure movement. They found that kids with TV-watching parents were more likely to use up to four hours a day of their free time plugged in to the tube, especially if their parents watched two to more than four hours a day, too. No big surprise there, right?
Now here's the interesting part: While parents were clearly role models when it came to teaching kids how to watch TV, their exercise habits had little or no effect on kids. So as long as the family isn't rooted to the sofa every night watching their favorite shows, there are plenty of ways that inactive parents can encourage their kids to be physically fit -- walking to school, playing outside, joining recreational teams, taking bike rides, etc.
Though this is good news for parents who are unable to work out, I still think there's value in exercising together as a family. Long walks after dinner, family bike rides, or even kicking a soccer ball around the backyard are bonding moments that (unlike TV watching) create lifelong memories. Plus, becoming a parent doesn't mean you, too, don't need to break a sweat now and then!
How much TV do you and your kids watch? Chime in below!