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Are today's children couch potatoes?

Sedentary Life style

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The new generation of children is turning into a lazy generation perpetually hooked on television and computer games. Children require at least one hour of physical activity each day.

According to a major new study, only one out of 10 school children do sufficient exercise, which can ensure them a healthy life ahead. A big chunk of 90% leads more or less a sedentary life style resulting into a couch potato. A child leading a sedentary life style during his early years is more likely to grow up into an obese adult with a whole range of diseases.



Recent Office of National Statistics figures found out that about 22% of boys and 28% of girls between the age two and 15 in England are overweight or obese. According to the study, British children are the third fattest in the world. The first and second positions are held by the US and Malta. Age-old habits such as playing football in the streets are replaced by sedentary pursuits involving computers and televisions.

In the US, over 300,000 people die prematurely from diseases resulting from obesity. Parents are obese, children are obese as well as the house hold pets are obese. This is a very common scenario in the North American, European as well as in Asian countries.


Health Problems due to the couch potato life style of a child

The University of Auckland investigated the sleep patterns of 519 seven year olds. It was found that every inactive hour during daytime added 3.1 minutes to the time the child took to fall asleep. The insufficient and irregular sleep patterns of these sedentary children are more likely affect there academic pursuits. Such sleep patterns are also likely to nurture obesity.

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Diabetes and heart disease:

According to British researchers lazy children are setting themselves up for years of ill-health because they are not active enough. The scientists monitored the activity levels of 3,500 pupils from five inner-city secondary schools in Leicester. It was found that only half the children walked to school and many children no longer participate in sporting events at school. Children are found spending more on sedentary activities involving television and computer. This when coupled with junk food creates a whole generation of couch potato children. These children are more likely to suffer from diabetes and heart diseases when they grow up.


High level of psychological distress:

It is also noticed that children who spend lots of time in front of Television and computer screens have high levels of psychological distress. Dr. Mark Hamer of University College London conducted an investigation to find out the effects of “screen time” on mental health. Dr. Hamer and his team evaluated childhood mental health issues, such as hyperactivity, emotional symptoms, conduct problems and peer problems of 1,486 boys and girls between the ages four and 12. Children with highest screen time level, which was around three hours showed the worst mental health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the screen based entertainment time to be limited to less than two hours. They also advise kids to spend at least one hour on physical activities on a daily basis.


Responsibility of the schools to avoid couch potato 

In order to keep children active, the schools should go an extra mile to provide them with enough time or facilities for sporting activities. This is because when they get home they are not likely to do anything more strenuous than turning on the TV or play games on the computer. Therefore, an inactive day at school is likely to turn the whole day inactive.

Need for physical activities

The human body functions best if it is kept physically active. The ways physical activities improve human health is given below:

  • Helps people achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of stress
  • Helps in building as well as maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Help children to grow up into healthy adults

Apart from the above mentioned points, physical activity also controls some of the major ailments of human race like:
  • Lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Lowers the risk of stroke
  • Reduces both total blood cholesterol and triglycerides and increases high-density lipoproteins
  • Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of developing non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus
  • Lowers the risk of developing colon cancer


Responsibility of the parents to avoid couch potato

To improve the physical as well as mental health, the human body should be kept physically active. The current form of modern lifestyle is making us more and more sedentary and lazy. Parents should take the responsibility to incorporate physical activities in their children’s lives.

Given below are few tips to keep our children more active:

  • Encourage them to walk at least five to 10 minutes every day.
  • Get them a loving and active companion like a pet dog, and encourage them to take their pets out for a walk.
  • Find physical activities that they enjoy doing.
  • Give them errands they can do on foot or by bicycle.
  • They don't have to puff and pant or get sweaty to be active. Don’t make it a chore, make it a fun activity.
  • Exercise is cumulative little bits every day promises a healthy life ahead.
  • Parents should always set an ideal model in front of children by keeping them selves active. 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: October 30, 2012