BANNING television actually makes children less active, according to researchers who suggested that watching sport may encourage them to go outside and play.
Children whose parents prohibited them from watching TV spent on average a sixth less time each day on activities like running, skipping or playing games than those who were allowed free reign, a study found.
The academic survey of 500 children aged eight to 10 found that each child spent on average about 20 minutes per day performing "moderate to vigorous" physical activities, which can range from playing sports to climbing a flight of stairs quickly.
Health guidelines recommend that children should spend at least an hour each day at such a level of activity.
The study, published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal, also found that girls were significantly less active than boys, and that children of older fathers were on average more sedentary.
The children's activity levels were monitored using devices called accelerometers, which are placed on the hip where they record every minute movement during the day.
Periods where more than 3,200 recordings were made within a minute were defined as moderate to vigorous physical activity, according to a well-established scale.
Researchers admitted to being surprised by the results, which appear to contradict previous studies showing that children who watch more television are more likely to be overweight and less likely to exercise.
Dr Mark Pearce of Newcastle University, who led the study, said: "We are not entirely sure what that result means, it could be a chance finding. One thought is it may be connected to something else that goes alongside restricted TV access, for example because you are doing more homework or reading.
"It could also be because watching television [for some children] involves watching sport, so maybe that is also part of it."