Couch potato children 'up to nine times more likely to be clumsy than other youngsters'
04:05 GMT, 15 August 2012
Children who spend hours watching TV or playing on a computer are more clumsy than other youngsters, a study claims.
It found those who sat around for most of the day were up to nine times less likely to have normal levels of co-ordination.
Even simple tasks such as hopping and jumping were affected.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle can affect children's levels of co-ordination
Importantly, brief bursts of strenuous exercise did not make up for the damage apparently done by spending the rest of the day sitting.
The Portuguese researchers said that while it is important to encourage children to take part in sport, limits should also be set on the amount of time spent sedentary.
They made their recommendation after tracking the movements of more than 200 nine and ten year olds.
The study tracked the movements of more than 200 children aged nine and ten using a pedometer-like gadget to measure activity levels over five days.
The children were also weighed and measured and put them through a battery of tests specifically designed to test balance, speed, agility and co-ordination.
These included walking backwards on a low beam, jumping from side to side, hopping over a stack of blocks and stepping from one box onto another box without falling off.
The study of 200 children shows the link between lack of exercise and co-ordination
Taken together, the results are seen as a measure of a child’s co-ordination.
On average, the children spent three-quarters of their time sedentary – defined as sitting, lying down or watching a TV or computer screen – with the girls less active than the boys.
However, the impact on co-ordination was greatest for the boys.
The girls who spent more than three-quarters of their time inactive four to five times less likely to normal co-ordination than those who sat less.
However, the couch potato boys were five to nine times less likely to have normal co-ordination, the Journal of Human Biology reports.
The findings stood even when the children’s height, weight and the amount of strenuous exercise done was taken into account.
While the link between lack of exercise and obesity has been extensively researched, the study is one of the first to look at the effects on something on as basic as co-ordination.
Researcher Dr Luis Lopes, of the University of Minho, said that good co-ordination has been linked to a healthy weight and heart, strong muscles and endurance but takes ‘practice, encouragement, feedback and instruction’.
‘Childhood is a critical time for the development of motor co-ordination skills which are essential for health and well-being.’
He added that Governments should consider issuing guidelines on sedentary behaviour alongside advice on exercise.