CRECHES SHOULD BAN television and encourage toddlers to engage in physical activity in order to combat childhood obesity, according to a new EU study.
The ToyBox survey found that obesity among European pre-schoolers is at record levels, with more than one in eight children now being classed as overweight in northern Europe.
Almost 40 per cent of pre-school girls in Spain now classed as obese.
“We found that many countries are lacking clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play,” said the co-ordinator of the project, Yannis Manios, assistant professor at Harokopio University, Athens. ”However, there is good evidence linking sedentary behaviour, such as television watching, with subsequent obesity.”
Studies show that much less energy is used by children who are watching television than by those engaged in other sedentary activities.
Manios said that television watching in daycare centres should be replaced by “more active, non-competitive, fun activities which will promote the participation of the whole class and help children to achieve optimal growth, health and well-being.”
He said that, as young children are naturally energetic, it should not be hard to encourage them to move about.
Conversely, he warned that it was easy for habit to be ingrained at a young age – so allowing children to spend a lot of time in front of the television would have an impact on their future behaviour.
Manios also warned against young children having televisions in their bedrooms, or parents giving access to unhealthy foods.
Research for the study was conducted in Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the UK.
The four-year research programme has a brief to “develop and test an innovative and evidence-based obesity prevention programme for children aged four to six years”, as well as a €2.9m grant from the European Commission.