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Build Boys' Bones

Screen-Based Activities Linked to Lower Bone Mineral Density in Boys

After-school activities may be jamming your family’s schedule full, but research suggests those baseball, basketball or lacrosse practices may be improving more than just your child’s speed on the field. Time spent playing sports not only provides exercise, it takes away from time spent watching TV, a habit that may be harmful to bone health in boys, according to a 2015 study published in BMJ Open.

Researchers from Norway and New Zealand analyzed 688 Norwegian students aged 15 to 18 years. Participants answered questions about how many hours per day they spent doing sedentary screen-based activities like watching TV or using a computer and how often they did different physical activities like sports. Researchers also measured their bone mineral densities. Two years later, the teens were assessed again.

Analysis found boys spent more time sitting in front of a screen than girls, which was linked to lower bone mineral densities. Weekends racked up the most screen-based activity time, with boys averaging five hours a day glued to a screen. Researchers explain that physical activity is a strong predictor of bone mass, and spending your spare time in front of a screen takes away from time for sports and active play.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular sports activities in addition to music, art or theater. On weekends, get the whole family up and active by visiting a local YMCA, enrolling in local sports leagues (there are leagues for adults, too!), playing in the yard or doing other engaging hobbies. Limit screen-based activities like watching TV or using the computer to just one or two hours per day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and keep “screen-free” zones in the kitchen, dining room and bedrooms.  

BONUS: In June we challenged families to turn off the TV and get outside for the summer. Keep up with the challenge this fall and aim to keep TV watching to just an hour per day.

Published September 1, 2015

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