I don’t watch much TV. After the children are in bed, I usually watch an hour or less a day. Due to an injury, I have been watching more TV as I lie around patiently healing. I notice an effect on my brain with this increase of watching. I am not sure what the effect is, but I can’t help but reflect upon my life and the countless hours of television watching. What else could I have done with this time?
Could TV watching actually shorten my life?
According to numerous studies, the answer is yes. It’s not the TV itself that is to blame, it is the sedentary activity (or lack of activity). What would you be doing instead of watching TV? Most likely, you would be on your feet actively doing something.
Dr. Mercola reports:
If you watch television for three or more hours a day, your risk of premature death is double that of someone who watches only one hour or less, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.1The health risks of too much sedentary behavior, including too much sitting, are now widely known…
What’s interesting about the current study, however, is that it didn’t compare television watching to other more active activities… it compared it to computer usage and driving time – two activities that also involve sitting.
Somewhat surprisingly, computer use and driving time were not associated with an increased risk of death the way television watching was, which begs the question, is TV damaging to your health in other ways beyond sitting?
How Does Watching TV Damage Your Health?
While no link was found between using a computer or driving and premature death, for every two additional hours spent watching TV, a person’s risk of death from heart disease rose by 44 percent and risk of death from cancer climbed by 21 percent.3
The researchers were skeptical, so they set out to examine other variables that might be driving up death rates linked to TV watching, like increased consumption of processed foods and sugary drinks (widely known to rise with television viewing), smoking, an unrelated serious illness, following (or not following) a Mediterranean diet, age, sex, and weight.
The results linking television time and premature death still held strong, which suggests television may be uniquely damaging. The study’s authors suggested part of the problem may be the extremely sedentary nature of television watching. When you’re driving or working at a computer, your body moves (albeit minimally) and your mind is engaged, which are not the case when watching TV.
There is further evidence that TV watching does affect your brain chemistry and can be found in the above linked article.
I do spend more time a day on the computer than watching TV, and I find it interesting that the health risks are not the same. From my personal experience, I do maintain correct posture on the computer compared to slouching on the couch during TV time, and I tend to eat less as I don’t to spill anything on the computer. Furthermore, my brain is definitely more engaged as I write, play scrabble, or look for deals online.
How many TVs are in your house?
The more televisions you have, the more TV watching occurs. Dr. Mercola shares that having a TV in your bedroom increases your watching by nine hours a week! We have only one, and it must be shared.
5 Tips to reduce your TV watching:
- Have only one TV in your home
- Limit TV watching to only one time of day
- Use a DVR to record only what you want to watch instead of what happens to be on
- Turn off the cable and save money
- Replace TV watching with physical activity
I am not one to ban TV watching all together, and I have lived without TV for several years. Just like anything, moderation is key to health.
Not only does TV watching potentially shorten your life, those hours in front of the screen could have been spent on more healthful activities.