Obesity is a major health problem among children and, the prevalence of which, has skyrocketed globally in the last 10 years, particularly in Malaysia. Obesity in children will lead to various premature comorbidities, which nowadays affect the population at ages less than 45 years. There are multiple varying risk factors associated with childhood obesity, mainly attributed to a sedentary lifestyle or a high energy one, accompanied by poor eating habits/diet.
Sedentary behavior has emerged as a potential risk factor for obesity and cardiometabolic risk in childhood obesity¹. Television viewing represents one of the main aspects of sedentary behavior. Each additional hour spent in front of the TV every day increases the risk of obesity by two percent². The potential mechanism linking TV viewing to obesity in children includes increased unhealthy snack consumption, displacement of moderate to vigorous physical activity and exposure to unhealthy food advertisement².
On top of that, the time spent playing video games nowadays far exceeds TV viewing in children. Its highly engaging and immersive nature captivates users for hours on end, with social interactions and activities all in a virtual environment. This evolution has been linked to poor social development and delayed cognition in children from as young as preschool. As a result, the amount of time spent sedentary has decreased the amount of time spent engaging in physical activities, thus increasing risk of both obesity and overweight².
Bear in mind, that the goal for children who are obese or overweight is to reduce the rate of weight gain, while still allowing for normal growth and development. Children should not be placed on weight reduction diets without the consultation of a professional healthcare provider.
Tips to maintain healthy weight in children:
- Remove junk food from the house
- Limit calorie-rich temptations
- Include all macronutrients in meals
- Introduce plenty of vegetables and fruits at an early age
- Eat together with your children – set an example!
- Be active parents
- Practice a regular sleeping schedule
- Tracie A. Barnett, A. S. (2018). Sedentary Behaviors in Today’s Youth: Approaches to the Prevention and Management of Childhood Obesity: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, Volume 138, Issue 11 : e142-e159.
- Katzmarzyk, P.T., et al. (2015). Relationship Between Lifestyle Behaviors and Obesity. Pediatric Obesity, 23, 1696–1702.
- Valerie Carson, E.-Y. L. (2019). Physical activity and sedentary behavior across three time-points and associations with social skills in early childhood. BMC Public Health, 19 (1): 27