Parenting style can determine how active or how inactive a child is, according to two new studies published in the journal Early Child Development and Care.

The researchers found that children watched, on average, 30 minutes more television per week day if their parents weren’t home often or if they didn’t spend much time with their parents.

David Schary, lead author of the study explained:

“A half hour each day may not seem like much, but add that up over a week, then a month, and then a year and you have a big impact. One child may be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of their life.”

Furthermore, the team found that the 30 minutes per week day increased to nearly 1 hour on Saturday and Sunday.

According to Bradley Cardinal, who co-authored both papers with Schary and Paul Loprinzi, explained that sedentary behavior is unnatural tendency for the majority of preschool-age children.

Cardinal said:

“Toddlers and preschool-age children are spontaneous movers, so it is natural for them to have bursts of activity many minutes per hour. We find that when kids enter school, their levels of physical activity decrease and overall, it continues to decline throughout their life. Early life involvement is imperative for establishing healthy, active lifestyles, self-awareness, social acceptance, and even brain and cognitive development.”

The researchers also discovered that children were more likely to be active if their parents actively played with them. According to the researchers, even just watching their child play made a difference.

Schary concluded: “When children are very young, playing is the main thing they do during waking hours, so parental support and encouragement is crucial. So when we see preschool children not going outside much and sitting while playing…we need to help parents counteract that behavior.”

Written by Grace Rattue