To help kids shed weight, change up the family routine

To help kids fight the battle of the bulge, a new study suggests changing up household routines with a few simple strategies.

In a new study published online September 9 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, US and Canadian researchers implemented a home-based intervention to help young kids lose weight, by curbing TV time, increasing sleep time, and encouraging families to dine together, LiveScience reports.

While childhood obesity is looming large around the globe, the US is especially struggling: some 17 percent of US children are obese, with the problem particularly acute among minority groups and low-income families, the report added.

One solution: a holistic lifestyle change, Aaron Carroll, a pediatric obesity expert who penned an editorial to the study, suggested to LiveScience.

"Rather than drill down to a specific eating or exercise change, creating a healthier household may be a better way not only to improve weight, but overall physical and mental health as well," he wrote in the editorial.

In the study, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Ontario's University of Guelph enlisted 121 families with overweight kids in a six-month study, with 59 families assigned to a control group. Prior to the study, all of the children slept in a room with a television.

In the intervention group, families received in-home counseling about healthy habits, and children increased their sleep by a half hour per day, cut down their television time by one hour per day, and in turn reduced their body mass index (BMI) by 20 percent.

Children in the control group increased their BMI by 20 percent.

In a separate 2012 study from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, researchers found that televisions in bedrooms can put kids at greater risk of obesity. A separate 2011 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity also found that electronic devices -- TVs, computers, and mobile phones -- in kids' bedrooms are linked with both poor sleep and obesity.