Spending too many hours watching TV can also substantially increase your odds of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease or dying early. That’s the conclusion of a Harvard School of Public Health study that looked at the effects of heavy TV watching.
Americans log an average of five hours of daily TV viewing. The study found that the resulting sedentary inactivity, often combined with eating junk foods, creates a “perfect breeding ground” for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The study examined results from eight previous studies of TV watching that followed a total of 200,000 viewers over periods from seven to 10 years. According to team leader Dr. Frank Hu, the statistics showed that for each two hours of TV people watch daily, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 20 percent. Their risk of developing heart disease increases by 15 percent, while their risk of dying prematurely increases by 13 percent.
Hu said that although the previous studies tried to filter out any viewers who had undiagnosed diseases, it is possible that some did-which would have influenced the findings. Even so, because TV watching involves no physical activity and is often accompanied by consumption of highly salted or sweet snacks, as well as alcoholic drinks, it can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar, and circulatory problems.
Aside from reducing TV viewing and substituting moderate exercise such as walking or bicycle riding, other approaches to cutting the risk from TV viewing include watching while on a treadmill or standing in place and moving. With pausing devices, it’s also possible to stop a program partway through, take a quick exercise break, and then resume watching.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.