If your child watches more than two hours of television a day, his or her risk for asthma is doubled, according to a study published in the journal Thorax.
The UK study monitored over 3,000 children from birth until nearly twelve years old. Beginning at the age of 3 and a half, researchers questioned parents annually on television viewing habits and symptoms of wheezing.
Those children who watched more than two hours of television a day were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with asthma at age 12 than those children who watched less, prompting the researchers to suggest that “breathing patterns associated with sedentary behavior could lead to developmental changes in the lungs and wheezing illnesses in children“.
Elaine Vickers of Asthma UK had this to say:
“The findings add to a wealth of evidence linking a lack of exercise and being overweight with an increased risk of asthma….But this study is the first to directly link sedentary behavior at a very young age to a higher risk of asthma later in childhood.”
The American Lung Association states that asthma is the most prevalent chronic illness in children, afflicting nearly 7 million children nationwide. Asthma has already been linked to pollution, chlorine in swimming pools, cigarette smoke, and other environmental exposures, possibly even while in the womb.
While it is a difficult task for parents to control all the environmental factors that may lead to asthma, ensuring that their children do not spend too much time in front of the TV is one factor parents can and should control.
The results of this study seem like good common sense to me. I’m no doctor, certainly, but here’s how I see it: if the lungs are not forced to work hard while still in development, there is no physical reason for them to develop further. In addition, I suspect that constant sitting (and the habitual poor posture that implies) makes for cramped quarters for growing internal organs.
Children should be outside, playing and running, exercising and conditioning their developing lungs (and heart and muscles), in order to help them to grow strong and to their full potential. But really, we already knew that.