A new study of 8,550 children suggests that regularly engaging in one or more of three household routines significantly cut a pre-schooler’s risk of obesity. These routines are: 1) eating dinner as a family more than five times a week, 2) sleeping least 10.5 hours a night and 3) limiting weekday television viewing time to less than 2 hours per day.

Specifically, 4-year-olds living in homes with all three routines had an almost 40% lower prevalence of obesity than did children living in homes that practiced none of these routines.

“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,” notes lead study author, Sarah Anderson.

Among 4-year-old children whose households practiced all three routines, the prevalence of obesity was 14.3%. In contrast, 24.5% of children living in households without any of the routines were obese.

“We chose these routines to study because in addition to their potential to protect against obesity, other research has shown that they promote children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. That’s important when we think about the implications of our study,” adds Anderson.

Pediatrics – March 2010;125(3).

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