After a long day, we may sit down to watch some television and figure, what’s the harm? Well, it depends on how much you watch. As it turns out, recent studies have linked excessive television watching to everything from worse heart health to being overweight. Here are three reasons to monitor how much time you spend on the couch – starting now!
1. Bad News for Your Heart
A study published in the European Heart Journal discovered that people who own a television – and also a car – tend to be at increased risk for heart attack. It makes sense. When you’re parked in front of the tube or in the driver’s seat, you are most likely sitting around. Spending hours being sedentary is not helping your heart health at all.
Meanwhile, people from developing countries that are physically active at both work and leisure were found to have a significantly lower risk of heart attack. These findings come from data analysis of more than 29,000 people in 52 countries, offering a global perspective on the association between physical activity and cardiovascular risk. The study showed that even mild to moderate physical activity at work and during leisure time reduces heart attack risk – independent of the usual risk factors in men and women of all ages, in most regions of the world, and across low-, middle- or high-income levels.
And what do the numbers say? People who owned both a TV and car had a 27%higher risk of heart attack than those who owned neither. So instead of watching TV for hours on end, go for a walk or take your bicycle for a spin. Spring is in the air, after all!
2. Bad Eating Habits
A nationwide survey published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that there is a link between watching a lot of TV and unhealthy eating habits. The survey of over 12,000 students in grades 5 to 10 found that television watching is associated with both unhealthy snacking while viewing, and with unhealthy eating at all other times, as well. After controlling for other factors, researches found that overall, higher TV-watching times were associated with a lower chance of eating fruits and vegetables daily and higher odds of skipping breakfast, consuming fast food and eating candy and soda. The research suggested that advertising influences eating choices even when the students are not watching television. And small wonder! Children viewing TV are exposed to more ads for unhealthy food. When is the last time you saw a commercial for a fruit or vegetable?
That’s real food for thought! For your youngsters – and for you – the recommendation is to limit daily TV viewing time and make sure healthy snacks, like apples and bananas, are readily available.
3. Negative Impact on Learning
How often do you find the television on, creating background noise, and yet, no one is watching? Preliminary research sourced from the International Communication Association found that American children are being exposed to background TV for nearly four hours each day. Previous research has suggested that too much background TV may impact children’s learning and development negatively. Study authors have suggested, for instance, that background TV seems to diminish reading ability. So, switch it off when no one is watching.