Watching TV Could Take Oomph Out of You

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under health

An article I read last month by Jeannie Stein of the Los Angeles Times, describes some negative effects of watching TV. I have noticed myself that the more I find time for some form of exercise, the less time I have for watching television and it looks like that is a good thing.

Watching television for hour upon hour obviously isn’t the best way to spend leisure time. Inactivity has been linked to obesity and heart disease. But a new study quantifies TV viewing’s effect on risk of death.

Researchers found that each hour a day spent watching TV was linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, an 11% greater risk of all causes of death, and a 9% increased risk of death from cancer.
As the article stated, researchers found a statistical relationship between long hours of TV viewing and a shortened life span, but the study did not go so far as to find a direct cause.

A journal of the American Heart Assn., looked at health data among 8,800 men and women older than 25 who were part of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. Participants recorded their television viewing hours for a week, and researchers separated the results by amount of viewing: those who watched less than two hours of TV a day, those who watched two to four hours a day, and those who watched more than four hours a day.

Researchers found a strong connection between TV hours and death from cardiovascular disease, not just among the overweight and obese, but among people who had a healthy weight and exercised.

“What we showed was that irrespective of a person’s exercise level, sitting for four or more hours watching television was linked to a significant increase in risk of death compared to watching lower amounts of TV,” said Dr. David Dunstan, lead author of the study and professor and head of the Physical Activity Laboratory at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Victoria, Australia. “The message here is that in addition to promoting regular exercise, we also need to promote avoiding long periods of sitting, such as spending long hours in front of the computer screen.”
To him, the results weren’t unexpected. “When we’re in that sitting posture, we’re not using our muscles, and we know from extensive evidence that muscle contractions are important for the body’s regulatory processes, such as the ability to break down glucose and use it as energy.”

Dr. Prediman K. Shah, director of the cardiology division of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, agreed. He pointed out that muscles become deconditioned when not used, triggering harmful physiological changes. “If your activity is slowing down, you metabolize cholesterol less and synthesize it more,” he said.

Even sporadic exercisers who sit for long periods need to increase their daily activity.

“The physical activity we do over a 24-hour period is important,” says Dr. Gerald F. Fletcher, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesman for the American Heart Assn.
That means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, gardening, walking the dog . . .

“For couch potatoes, sitting on your duff is hazardous to your health,” Shah said. “The bottom line is keep moving.”

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One Response to “Watching TV Could Take Oomph Out of You”
  1. Mrinal Jhangiani says:

    Perfectly said Dr. Shah,
    Sixty minutes of daily exercise which can be done as 20 minute programs  thrice a day, can keep us fit and healthy.

    Televisions, computer games, and electronic gadgetry have simply made us – Well Lazy!

    Today when everything is available at the click of the button, children and adolescents have become couch and mouse potatoes leading to a rise in inactivity and thus inviting overweight, obesity and other associated health problems.

    The benefits of exercise are best when they increase the heart rate over a sustained period of time, so we at NutritionVista recommend our members strive for 30 – 60 minutes of daily moderate activity at the minimum.

    One key benefit of exercise is that it helps build stronger bones at any age. It also helps treat and prevent osteoporosis, improve muscle strength, coordination, and balance, leading to better overall health.

    Exercise of any kind helps –
    * Lowering body fat levels
    * Building or preserving muscle mass
    * Improving insulin sensitivity
    * Increasing the body’s ability to use calories (better metabolic rate)
    * Strengthens our cardiovascular system
    * Aids in developing stronger bone structure
    * Building musculature
    * Strengthens immunity
    * Helps in decreasing the frequency of cold, allergic reactions.

    Daily moderate exercise (60 minutes daily – 300-400 minutes a week)
    * Lowers blood pressure
    * Raises HDL levels (good cholesterol)
    * Lowers LDL levels (bad cholesterol)
    * Increase blood flow to all body tissues
    * Enhances the heart’s working capacity
    * Builds stamina
    * Helps in prevention of heart disease and stroke from an early age itself.

    Most importantly, with exercise – reduction in fat levels and improvement in metabolism decreases the incidence of non insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes.
    In countries like India where diabetes and CVD are becoming a scourge, encouraging moderate exercise can become a solution.
    Mrinal Jhangiani

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