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Heavy use of digital media by children is associated with a risk of becoming overweight later in adolescence. Physical activity protects children from the damaging effects of digital media on their weight later in adolescence.

A recently completed study shows that six hours of leisure time physical activity per week by age 11 reduces the risk of being overweight by age 14 associated with heavy use of digital media.

Obesity in children and adolescents is one of the most important health problems in the world. A study by the Folkhälsan Research Center and the University of Helsinki investigated whether there is a link between the use of digital media by Finnish school-aged children and the risk of being overweight later. during teenagehood. Additionally, the study investigated whether children’s physical activity had an effect on this potential link.

The results were published in the Journal of physical activity and health.

More than six hours of physical activity per week seems to reverse the damaging effects of screen time

The study involved 4,661 children from the Finnish Adolescent Health Study (Fin-HIT). Participating children reported how much time they spent sedentary use of digital media and physical activity outside of school hours. The study found that heavy digital media use at age 11 was associated with an increased risk of being overweight at age 14 in children who reported less than six hours per week of physical activity in their free time. In children who reported being physically active six or more hours per week, such an association was not observed.

The study also took into account other factors that may impact obesity, such as children’s eating habits and amount of sleep, as well as the amount of digital media use and activity. physical in adolescence. Despite the confounding factors, the protective role of physical activity in childhood in the link between digital media use in childhood and overweight later in life has been successfully confirmed.

Activity as recommended

“The effect of physical activity on the association between digital media use and being overweight has not been extensively studied in follow-up studies so far,” explains postdoctoral researcher Elina Engberg.

More research is needed to determine in more detail to what extent sedentary use of digital media increases the risk of being overweight, and how much physical activity is necessary, and at what intensity, to ward off such risk. In this study, the amount of physical activity and the use of digital media were reported by the children themselves, and the level of their activity was not studied, so it is necessary to perform further studies.

“A good rule of thumb is to follow the Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Adolescents, which state that school-aged children and adolescents should be versatile, fast and intense physically active for at least 60 minutes per day. day in a way that suits the individual, given their age, ”says Engberg. In addition, excessive and prolonged sedentary activity should be avoided.

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Materials provided by University of Helsinki. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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