Turn Off the TV to Save Your Health

CC BY 2.0. Bruno Melnic Incáo

The health implications of extensive TV viewing are a very real threat. Here's what can go wrong.

There was a time when TV’s offerings were limited. There were very few networks, and those typically shut down at nighttime, which meant that, at certain times of the day, there really wasn’t anything interesting to watch. Those days are now long gone, and the stream of potential entertainment is endless, thanks to cable and online browsing. In the words of Robert Wieder, writing for the Calorie Lab blog:

“There is now such a galaxy, such a torrent of televised content of all descriptions that no matter what the hour, or how narrow or arcane or, frankly, creepy your interests, there are at least several channels cranking out something to pique them. As a consequence, millions of us now tend to watch TV much the same as millions of us tend to eat or drink or text or game or party: to excess.”
It’s a tough addiction to break. TV is so easy, inviting, and captivating; but there is a price to pay for spending so much time in front of the TV. Here are some reasons why you should consider breaking the TV habit, if you value your physic

TV is linked to obesity.

Numerous studies have found that the more TV an adult watches, the more likely he or she is to be overweight. The same goes for children, whose TV-watching habits in their early years do a fairly good job at predicting obesity risk into adulthood, if they’re not already overweight or obese due to lack of exercise from spending so much time in front of a screen.

Interestingly, when study volunteers have used a TV lock-out device that cut their viewing time by half, they ended up burning more calories and having a greater reduction in BMI than those volunteers in the study group.

TV can make you chronically sick.

TV has been linked to the development of weight-related chronic diseases. The Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 50,000 women for six years, found that for every two hours spent watching television each day, the women were 14 percent more likely to get diabetes.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports:

“A more recent analysis that summarized the findings of this study and seven similar studies found that for every two hours spent watching TV, the risk of developing diabetes, developing heart disease, and early death increased by 20, 15, and 13 percent, respectively.”

The American Medical Association has also stated that the risk of heart disease increases by 15 percent for every two hours spent watching TV daily. It "is similar to what you see with high cholesterol or blood pressure or smoking,” says Mayo Clinic cardiologist Stephen Kopecky.

One study compared adults who watched two hours of TV daily versus four hours, and found that those watching longer had about “a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack.”

TV is bad for your lungs.

A Japanese study that monitored the health of 86,000 people for two years, then followed them for another 19 years, has found that every additional two hours spend watching TV daily increased the risk of a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in the lungs – by 40 percent. Pulmonary embolisms are linked to slow blood flow and physical inactivity, which is why it’s important to move around and stretch while watching TV and not get sucked into lengthy, binge-watching sessions.

It can make you unhappy.

A 2006 study from Switzerland found that “heavy TV watchers, and in particular those with significant opportunity cost of time, report lower life satisfaction.” Long hours spent watching TV hours are also linked to higher material aspirations and anxiety, as people know they shouldn’t be watching TV, but are unable to withstand the temptation of wasting time in front of it. Later they are sorry to have devoted so much time to viewing.

TV in the bedroom means less sex.

As if you need another reason to give your TV the boot! A study of 523 Italian couples found that no TV in the bedroom doubles the frequency of sex:

“On average, Italians who live without TV in the bedroom have sex twice a week, or eight times a month. This drops to an average of four times a month for those with a TV, the study found. For the over-50s the effect is even more marked, with the average of seven couplings a month falling to just 1.5 times.” (MedicineOnline via Reuters)

If you need help implementing self-control and boundaries, here are some thoughts on 12 ways to curb your TV addiction.