Published on 12 April 2017

Recommendation for more exercise and no more than three hours a day of screen time.

Young people who spend more than three hours a day looking at a computer or television screen could be increasing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

UK researchers found a link between three hours or more of screen time and a higher level of obesity, which could lead to type 2 diabetes.

The study by researchers from the University of London and the University of Glasgow was recently published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Researchers studied almost 4,500 children aged around 10 years between 2004 and 2007. They found that children with more than three hours of screen time per day had higher body fat and insulin resistance compared to children with an hour or less per day. Screen time was defined as time spent watching television and using computers or games consoles.

An NHS Behind the Headlines report on the study said: “It is most likely not the screen time itself that is the cause of these factors, more that this could indicate a generally less healthy and more sedentary lifestyle. A similar link might be found for children who spend more time reading books instead of taking physical activity.

“The study suggests a reduction in screen time could be beneficial in improving health and possibly reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related diseases in later life.

One pressing concern is that the data gathered in the study was taken before the use of smartphones and tablets became widespread in older children. Smartphones became commonly used around 2008 to 2010 and the first tablet (the iPad) was released in 2010. So it could well be the case that screen time has now increased in older children.

Guidelines for children and young people recommend that to maintain a basic level of health at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day should be taken; this could be cycling, playground activities or more vigorous activity, such as running and tennis. Exercises for strong muscles and bones are recommended three days a week such as push-ups, jumping and running.”

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