Healthier Family Routine Improves Children’s Weight

Concerned about your children’s weight? Less obsession with their weight and spending more time together as a family could be the answer.

According to a study conducted by paediatrician and researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, adopting healthier household routines can help improve children’s weight.

The study involved around 121 families with children ages between two and five. Sixty-two families were educated about, and supported to adopt healthy household routines, but not touching on issues related to children’s weight or obesity. They were encouraged to eat meals together, limit their screen time and get more sleep. The rest of the families received educational materials focusing on children’s developmental milestone, without discussing household routines. During the study, both groups kept the numbers of meals that children shared with the families.

After six months, the families were evaluated, and researchers found that children in families that were encouraged to adopt healthy household routine were sleeping an hour longer than when they started. And their TV viewing time had also gone down by an hour on weekends. Most importantly, children of families that adopted their routine had reduced body mass index (BMI), while those who kept to their routine showed an increase in BMI. The result suggests that the changes in the family routine have contributed to the reduction of the children’s weight.

Senior author of the study, Dr Elsie Taveras, also believed that support and encouragement played a big role in helping families adopt healthier routines. She said that simply telling families to become more physically active is not effective. GPs have to discuss routines with families, and continue to support them while they are making the changes.

Although the study is limited due to the small number of participants, and the findings are not necessarily new, medical professionals welcomed the result. Director of Paediatric Obesity in Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr Aaron Carrol, said he is encouraged to see evidence that what our common sense think is right, works and is feasible.

The study was published in JAMA Paediatrics in 9th September.

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