Subjects: Behavioral health
Australian scientists have found a correlation between the time spent watching TV and all cause mortality. What is more, the relation holds even among people who exercise regularly. The problem, it seems, is prolonged inactivity.
To reach this surprising conclusion, David Dunstan of Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute followed 8,800 people who were at least 50 years of age for 6 years. 284 of them died during the study, including 125 from cancer and 87 from cardiovascular disease.
Dunstan found that all cause mortality risk increased by 11% for each hour watching TV per day. The findings held up after adjustments were made for exercise duration, gender, age and waist circumference.
People who watched TV at least 4 hours per day were 46% more likely to die of any cause and 80% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who watched 2 hours per day or less.
“It’s not the sweaty type of exercise we’re losing,” Dunstan told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s the incidental moving around…utilizing muscles that [doesn't happen] when we’re plunked on a couch in front of a television.”
The findings likely apply to other sedentary activities like sitting in front of a computer, driving or reading.
“The implication of these findings is that the extraordinary amount of sitting can undo the good effects that we know are a benefit when we get regular exercise,” Dunstan told the Journal.
A recent study by Neilson Co. found that Americans watch 5 hours of TV per day, on average.
Simple strategies to combat the problem include incorporating household chores like folding laundry into TV-time or (god forbid) getting up to change a TV channel rather than using a clicker.
The article appears in Circulation.