It is okay for children to watch TV or play video games for hours, provided thay have exercised for an hour everyday, a recent study has revealed.
The new study, by UK experts, found that it did not matter how long children or adolescents spent being sedentary, their health would not be affected provided they exercised at a moderate or vigorous level for about an hour a day.
The researchers found that the more a child exercised, the more their cardiometabolic risk factors, such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure and waist size, improved.
Tim Olds, from the University of South Australia's School of Health Sciences, said the study was the first to find sedentary time was less important than the amount of physical activity children participate in daily.
"What this study is showing is that if kids aged four to 18 are physically active, then it doesn't matter how much they sit down," News.com.au quoted Olds as saying.
He said the opposite was true for adults and the less amount of time adults spent being sedentary was more beneficial.
"Children function differently to adults. It may be that they fidget more and are more active during the time they spend in front of the TV," he said.
Olds also said that until more evidence was available, parents should continue to follow government guidelines which recommend children exercise for at least an hour per day, and no more than two hours of screen time a day.
"The more active a child is, the better, and the less screen time they have the better," Olds said.
The study used data from more than 20,000 children and adolescents for their analysis. Overall, 75 percent were of normal weight, 18 percent were overweight and 7 percent were obese.
On an average, children spent 30 minutes a day moderately or vigorously exercising, compared with 354 minutes a day being sedentary.
Time spent being sedentary was not associated with any of the outcomes, while activity levels were.
"Our results have implications for public health policy," the researchers said.
"Children should be encouraged to increase their participation in physical activity of at least moderate intensity," they added.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.