Regular routines can help

Findings from a major study suggested that preschool-aged children are more likely to have a lower risk of obesity if they engage regularly in one or more of three specific household routines: family mealtimes; adequate sleep; and limited television viewing.

This is the first study to combine and access all three routines with obesity prevalence using a significant sample of pre-schoolers. “The routines were protective even among groups that typically have a high risk for obesity. This is important because it suggests that there’s a potential for these routines to be useful targets for obesity prevention in all children,” stated lead author of the study, Sarah Anderson, assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University.

An examination of the association of childhood obesity was done among preschool-age children who were involved in three specific household routines:

  • eating their evening meal with their family six or seven times each week
  • obtaining at least 10.5 hours sleep a night
  • and watching less than two hours of television each day during the week.

Small changes however could make a lasting impact, as the study suggested. If households who practiced none of the three routines, adopted one routine they could still lower a child’s obesity risk, and having more than one was additionally protective.

Researchers noted that these positive associations were seen despite the fact that children were already at risk for obesity due to other aspects in their lives. Previous research has already shown that children with certain factors increase their risk of obesity. These factors include:

mothers who are obese

low household income

mothers who did not complete school

growing up in a single-parent home

Even though all four of these predictors  for a higher prevalence of obesity were seen in the study, practice of all three of the routines still appeared to lower the likelihood of obesity.

“Our research suggests that routines may have an opportunity for impact. They may help families move beyond the discussion of eating and exercise to other aspects of behavior and biology that have potential to be linked to obesity,” Anderson said.


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