Watching TV or using a computer for too long can result in poor motor skills in children, a new study says.

Researchers found that children who spend more than three-quarters of their time in sedentary activities, such as watching television or spending time on the computer, have up to 9 times poorer motor skills than their active peers.

"Childhood is a critical time for the development of motor coordination skills which are essential for health and well-being. We know that sedentary lifestyles have a negative effect on these skills and are associated with decreased fitness, lower self-esteem, decreased academic achievement and increased obesity," said Dr. Luis Lopes, from the University of Minho, lead author of the study.

For the study, researchers assessed lifestyles of more than 200 boys and girls between the ages of nine and 10 from 13 elementary schools in Portugal.

Physical activity of the children was measured by accelerometer- a device that records movements and intensities. Motor skills were measured using tests that measured the ability to jump laterally, jump over obstacles and balance.

Questionnaires were also given to parents of the participating children asking them about their child's lifestyle habits.

Researchers found that children spend more than 70 percent of their time on sedentary activities and this behavior severely affected their motor skills. Boys were more affected than girls.

Results showed that girls who spend 77.3 percent or more time on sedentary activities had 4 to 5 times poorer motor skills than active girls. For boys, spending more than 76 percent of their time sitting meant that they were 5 to 9 times less likely to have normal motor skills.

"It is very clear from our study that a high level of sedentary behaviour is an independent predictor of low motor coordination, regardless of physical activity levels and other key factors. High sedentary behaviour had a significant impact on the children's motor coordination, with boys being more adversely affected than girls "said Lopes.

A recent study had reported that children spend less than 20 minutes a day on play whereas the recommended time is at least 60 minutes of physical activity.

"The results demonstrate the importance of setting a maximum time for sedentary behaviour, while encouraging children to increase their amount of physical activity. We hope that our findings will make a valuable contribution to the debate on child health and encourage future investigations on this subject," concluded Lopes.

Previous studies have shown that children who play are healthy and happy than children who sit indoors.

According to a recent study, preference for indoor activities, lack of energy and motivation, time constraints, and social factors are some of the reasons children avoid playing.

The study was published in the American Journal of Human Biology.