Obesity: Portuguese children becoming couch potatoes

Portuguese children aged between seven and nine are becoming “more and more sedentary” and at a higher risk of obesity, according to a recent study by the University of Coimbra.

Research coordinator Cristina Padez says the findings are “frightening” and require a strategy from the government in order to solve the problem.

Data shows that between 2002 and 2009 the number of children who watch television more than two hours a day increased 12% during weekdays, 15% on Saturday and 17% on Sunday.

“Children whose parents have little education are the ones who spend more time watching TV,” Padez said, warning that the situation gets “even worse” in terms of time spent on a computer.

“While in 2002 poorer children hardly used computers, in 2009 around 19% of children spent over two hours on the computer,” she revealed.

The study also found that fewer children are doing sports – especially among the poorer communities.

Data shows that only 20% of children did sports outside of school in 2009, as opposed to the 64% in 2002.

“This is why politicians should create a strategy to fight these sedentary habits among children. If nothing is done, we are going to have adults with serious health problems thus leading to high socioeconomic costs,” the researcher concluded.

The study compared the sedentary habits of over 9,000 Portuguese children between 2002 and 2009 and was presented at a conference of the International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity in Edinburgh last month.