Sitting in front of a television for hours may be worse than working a desk job in the day, according to an extensive US study led by Jeanette Garcia, a researcher at the University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Studies have shown people who spend more time in front of the television were likely to be inactive, overweight, smokers, heavy drinkers, unhealthy eaters and lesser household incomes (below US$50,000).

For the current batch of 3,590 adults in the study, participants were observed to watch television for either more than 4 hours, 2-4 hours or less than 2 hours a daily over an average of 8.4 years; during this time, 205 participants died and 129 participants had health events like heart attacks or strokes. The researchers note that those who spent more than four hours in front of the TV were 49% more likely to die from or have a cardiovascular event.

In addition, there was no meaningful difference in the chances of dying or having a heart attack/stroke based on the hours spent sitting at work – contrastingly, these were more likely to be young women with high levels of leisure-time physical activity, eat healthily and have a family income above US$50,000. They were also less likely to be smokers or heavy drinkers.

Lin Yang, from the University of Calgary, Canada, said improper sleep or mindless snacking from sitting in front of the television could cause weight gain and contribute to other risk factors for heart disease that could make people more likely to die prematurely.

But the negative health effects of television appeared limited to people who didn’t get the recommended amount of weekly exercise for optimal health: 150 minutes of moderate to physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

Apart from leisurely physical activity, Arch Mainous, from the University of Florida, Gainesville, opines,”Getting some activity at work needs to be integrated into the demands of the job – take the stairs rather than the elevator, or take a walk at lunch.”

Leave a Reply