A recently completed study indicates that Finnish children who spend a lot of time in front of screens; have a heightened risk for overweight and abdominal obesity, regardless of the extent of their physical activity.  Lifestyle factors, such as low levels of physical activity; and a greater amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors have suggested to contribute to the present obesity epidemic.

In summary, the research evidence on the relationship between sedentary behaviors; and other adiposity-related outcomes than BMI in children is still limited, and the role of physical activity in this relationship warrants further investigation. This study examines the associations of recreational sedentary screen time with overweight and central adiposity among 10,000 children.

Screen time and overweight

The specific aims are to examine 1) whether TV viewing and computer use are associated with BMI; 2) whether the associations of TV viewing and computer use with BMI differ according to weekly exercise duration, and 3) whether the associations of TV viewing and computer use are similar with BMI and WHtR.

The increase in childhood obesity is one of the largest health problems globally. The study investigated links between screen time; and overweight by utilising the Finnish Health in Teens data (Fin-HIT); encompassing more than 10,000 children from across Finland. The children studied were between 9 and 12 years of age.

The subjects reported the time spent viewing television program; and films on screens and the amount of sedentary computer use outside school hours. The children measured for height, weight and waist circumference. The results, publish in Scientific Reports, demonstrated that heavy screen time is associate with both overweight and abdominal obesity.

Abdominal obesity in children

There was no variance in the findings by age, gender, native language, sleep duration and exercise during free time. Watching a lot of television was also associate with overweight and abdominal obesity in children who exercise the most. “It must be note that this cross-sectional study does not reveal anything about causality. It may be that overweight children spend more time in front of screens; or that abundant screen time may result in overweight,” says researcher Elina Engberg from the University of Helsinki and Folkhälsan.

“Neither did the study measure the intensity of exercise; the participants are only asked about the amount of time they spent exercising in their free time. Further research on the combined effect of screen time; physical activity and diet on children’s weight needed.” Previously, not much research has carried out on the link between screen time and children’s abdominal obesity. Overweight in children and related adverse health effects illustrate by the waist-to-height ratio as well the body mass index.