Plonking kids in front of the TV for hours on end paves the way for heart attacks and strokes in later life, warns a new study.
Researchers found being a couch potato between childhood and young adulthood is linked with heart damage, regardless of weight and blood pressure.
Every extra minute spent sedentary between the ages of 11 and 24 was associated with a 0.004g/m (grams relative to height) increase in the mass of the heart’s left ventricle by the time they were between 17 and 24 years old.
Between childhood and young adulthood, the periods not moving increased by an average of 2.8 hours a day, or 169 minutes.
Multiplied by 169 minutes a day, this increases the ventricle expanding 0.7g/m daily.
Previous research revealed that a similar increase in left ventricle mass – 1g/m – over a seven-year period was twice as likely to suffer heart disease, stroke and death.
The new study showed 11-year-old children were sedentary for an average of 362 minutes a day, rising to 474 by during adolescence aged 15, and 531 minutes a day during young adulthood at 24 years old.
Dr Andrew Agbaje of the University of Eastern Finland, said: “All those hours of screen time in young people add up to a heavier heart, which we know from studies in adults raises the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
“Children and teenagers need to move more to protect their long-term health.
“Children were sedentary for more than six hours a day and this increased by nearly three hours a day by the time they reached young adulthood.
“Our study indicates that the accumulation of inactive time is related to heart damage regardless of body weight and blood pressure.
“Parents should encourage children and teenagers to move more by taking them out for a walk and limiting time spent on social media and video games.
“As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.’”
Researchers used data from one of the world’s largest cohorts, tracking kids from 1990.
It was the first study to investigate sedentary time’s cumulative effect on the heart.
Kids aged 11 spent seven days wearing a smartwatch tracking their activity – this was repeated at 15 and 24 years old.
At 15 and 24-year check-ups scientists measured the weight of the heart’s left ventricle using an ultrasound scan, and echocardiography.
The researchers analyzed the link between sedentary time between 11 and 24 years old, and heart measurements between 17 and 24 years.
The test group included 766 children, 55 percent of whom were girls.
The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress in Amsterdam.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker