A study that was recently published online, and will be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in December, “shows the breadth of mortality outcomes associated with prolonged TV viewing, and identifies novel associations for several leading causes of death.”
The study, led by Dr. Sarah K. Keadle, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, found that 80 percent of American adults watch approximately 3.5 hours of TV per day. There is no question that this time could be better spent engaged in activities that would lead to a healthier lifestyle, but will spending time in front of the TV actually kill you?
Previous studies have already linked watching TV to an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and cancer. Approximately 90 percent of Americans own a television, and watching TV is a ubiquitous pastime, which can often replace physical exercise. “We know that television viewing is the most prevalent leisure-time sedentary behavior, and our working hypothesis is that it is an indicator of overall physical inactivity,” Keadle commented in news reports.
Keadle and her colleagues examined 220,000 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 71 from 1995 to the close of 2011, or until the deaths of the participants. The study’s conclusion reinforced the increased risk for heart disease and cancer shown by previous research. However, the results also uncovered an increased risk for liver disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes, pneumonia, and influenza.
The study concluded that those who watched three to four hours of television per day were at a 15 percent increased risk of any leading cause of death. Those who watched seven or more hours of television were at a significantly higher risk — 47 percent higher. “Our results fit within a growing body of research indicating that too much sitting can have many different adverse health effects,” Keadle noted. The increased risk was also prevalent after other lifestyle risks, like smoking and alcohol use, were accounted for.
This recent study contradicts a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in October of this year, which found that prolonged sitting did not increase “all-cause mortality risk.” That study noted that prolonged sitting was not a risk factor as long as you did some sort of physical activity.
With conflicting research results, who or what do we believe? Is sitting for seven or more hours watching an entire season of a television show on Netflix bad for you? Possibly, if you do it every day, but who really has that kind of time? Tuning in to your favorite television program in the evening will most likely not kill you, especially if you just came home from the gym or your evening two-mile run around the community park.
Eating a balanced, nutritious diet coupled with physical activity is the best way to set yourself up for a long, healthy life. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Moderate exercise equates to a brisk walk. Throw in a little tube time in the evening after you enjoy a delicious dinner of locally grown vegetables and a fresh cut of fish cooked with extra-virgin olive oil, and you have a healthy routine. For an added bonus, try standing or stretching while watching your favorite show, to break up all of that sitting time.
You know your body, and if you need a bit of downtime in front of the TV, so be it. However, remember to keep your overall health and wellness a top priority.
How much TV do you watch per night?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.