Turn off the TV to beat childhood obesity!

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The National Heart Foundation of Australia has launched a new campaign aimed at tackling overweight and obesity in children.

The campaign 'Unplug and Play' is all about getting parents to encourage children to substitute watching television for some form of physical activity.

According to the Heart Foundation 61% of Western Australian parents do not know how much physical activity their child needs to keep healthy and the campaign targets parents in order to raise their awareness of the urgent need for children to spend less time sitting in front of a screen and more time playing.

The new campaign stresses the important role of parents in reducing screen time for their children and instead encourage them to do at least an hour of physical activity each day.

Trevor Shilton, the foundation's Cardiovascular Health Director, says most children spend between two and four hours a day in front of the TV and research shows that it is driving up rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood cholesterol and a range of other problems, including social problems.

Research by the government's Physical Activity Taskforce found that on weekdays, primary school children, on average, spend more than two hours each day watching television and this time almost doubles by the time they reach high school.

On the weekends, primary and secondary students spend 17 to 20 hours on average using electronic entertainment such as playing electronic games, surfing the Internet or watching television.

New research shows that spending more than two hours watching television is associated with a higher risk of overweight or obesity, poor fitness, increased social problems, limited time interacting with siblings or friends and increased aggressive behaviour.

There is also evidence which suggests that more time watching television encouraged children to ask for advertised junk foods, snack on high energy foods and drinks, have sleeping problems and achieve less at school.

Mr Shilton says parents are not aware of the amount of physical activity their children needed for good health and the majority of parents surveyed were not aware that children should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

The campaign is an initiative of the Heart Foundation in partnership with the Cancer Council WA and Diabetes WA, and is funded by the Department of Health, Western Australia, with support from the Premier s Physical Activity Taskforce.

For heart health information phone 1300 36 27 87 or visit www.heartfoundation.org.au/parentcampaign

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