Watching television, playing video games, doing homework — they’re all sedentary. While some forms of inactivity may be better for the mind, it turns out others, namely television viewing, are worse for young bodies.
An Iowa State University study of 111 children, 3 to 11 years of age compared levels and types of inactivity with blood pressure, and found that too much tube time hiked hypertensive risk: Kids who watched less than a half hour of TV daily had blood pressure readings up to 7 points lower than those who watched an hour and a half or more. Given the link between TV and obesity, you might think extra pounds are to blame — but even the normal-weight television watchers trended toward higher blood pressure.
Why is passive viewing worse than other sedentary behaviors? Possibly because more television viewed means less fruit and vegetables consumed — and therefore lower intakes of nutrients needed to regulate blood pressure. Sprawled out on the couch, kids also tend to eat more salty snacks and caffeinated beverages, both of which are bad for blood pressure. If left untreated, blood pressure can increase later risk of heart disease and stroke — as well as damage to the kidneys, brain, and vascular system. Fortunately, you can take measures today to help protect your children’s future health by strictly limiting television time, encouraging play, and serving up foods whose nutrients help regulate blood pressure: bananas (potassium), broccoli (calcium), spinach (magnesium) and kiwi (vitamin C).
Published October 1, 2009