In a new study, researchers found that children who are obese were more likely to consume school lunch instead of a packed lunch from home and spend two hours a day watching TV or playing a video game.

The study was conducted by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Centre and includes 1,003 Michigan 6th graders in a school-based health program. The results suggest unhealthy habits are feeding the childhood obesity trend.

“For the extremely overweight child, genetic screening may be a consideration,” said study senior author Kim A. Eagle. “For the rest, increasing physical activity, reducing recreational screen time and improving the nutritional value of school lunches offers great promise to begin a reversal of current childhood obesity trends,” Eagle said.

Children involved in the study participate in Project Healthy Schools, school-based program supported by communities and the U-M Health System to teach middle school students about healthy lifestyles, in hopes of reducing their future risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Researchers found that 58 per cent of obese children had watched two hours of TV in the previous day, compared to 41 per cent of non-obese children. 45 per cent of obese students always ate school lunch, but only 34 per cent of non-obese students ate school lunch.

Significantly fewer obese kids exercised regularly, took physical education classes, or were a member of a sports team.

Because the eating and exercise patterns of obese children were so different than their normal weight peers, researchers concluded that lifestyle was more closely linked with childhood obesity, than genetics.

The study was published in the American Heart Journal.