John Cowan - Physical Activity Needs

Publish Date
Friday, 18 March 2016, 8:54AM
By John Cowan

When I go home, there will be three great friends waiting for me – my fridge, my TV and the sofa. “Come on in, have something to eat, sit for a while, blob out.”  I admit, I enjoy their company more than just a little.  I love those friends… so I am truly shocked that they want to kill me.  As a New Zealander, I am more likely to die prematurely from inactivity and overeating  than anything else.  And they will kill your kids, too, if you let them.

Parents often express to us that they are worried about their kids using modern technology - computers, phones, TV and tablets. They worry about porn and violence and on-line predators, but quite seriously, the biggest risk to your kids from technology is that it literally makes them fat, and it does it three ways. The first way is that it paralyses them. Children need 60 minutes of physical activity most days, preferably every day* but many kids now spend nearly all their leisure time passively watching screens. Secondly, kids are bombarded with food advertising online and on TV. If advertising doesn’t work, why do companies spend so much money on it? And thirdly, many kids become unconscious snack eaters while they watch or browse. They just don’t think about what they are eating.

  • It really does make them fat. Obesity increased by 2% for every additional hour of screen time each week.
  • Children with televisions in their bedrooms are at 31% greater risk for obesity.
  • 60% of overweight incidence can be linked to excess screentime**.

So switch off the gadgets and get your whole family moving. They will complain a bit, but I bet they will be grateful when they are fit ninety year olds!

For more, check out


*National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute guidelines.

Dietz, 1985

Dennison, et al., 2002

**Tremblay and Willms, 2003

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