Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is watching TV killing you?

Scientists just love statistics! Unfortunately they can often be "massaged" into giving you the sort of answer you were looking for in the first place, but that's not what Anders Grontved, M.P.H., M.Sc., of the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, and Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston have done.

They didn't do the research themselves and come up with a conclusion, they reviewed the work of others by searching the medical literature for relevant studies from 1970 to March 2011 and found 8 studies that fitted their criteria. What they found provided some fascinating trends about why watching TV may be bad for our health.

If you watch TV for 2 hours per day there is a 20% increased risk for Type II Diabetes and a 15% increased risk for fatal or non fatal heart attacks. And the more TV you watch, the greater the risk.

Put into context for Perth (rounding out our population at 1 million for ease of mathematics) that equates to 380 fatal heart attacks and 1,760 new cases of Type II Diabetes per year.

Now I don't think for a moment that there are some deadly rays coming out of the TV screens around the world, but watching TV for extended periods of time - in the US the average viewing time is reported to be 5 hours, and it's probably fairly close to that in Australia - means you are inactive and probably eating and drinking (or being tempted to eat and drink) snacks and drinks that you don't need.  Other studies have shown that those with sedentary jobs such as drivers also have increased risk for these diseases, so the problem appears to be linked to inactivity and poor diet choices.

TV and home entertainment are entrenched in our modern way of life, but is there a better, healthier way of living with them? Do we need to watch as much TV as we do?

As a point of interest, I was just reading an article on how the brain records those powerful, emotional and sometimes scary experiences that happen during our lives, and how it is that we can remember them far more easily than the usual day to day events. Whilst reading the article I discovered that we produce about 100 new neurons each day and about 50% of them will die if we don't "use" them: and the way to hold onto them is to use your brain to perform "complex" tasks - learning a new language, reading books, learning new dance steps, exercising and so on.This means being actively involved in the process, not sitting back and watching others perform them.

Of all the time you have spent in front of the "Box", how much of it do you remember? How would you cope if you lost the use of your TV (computer games) for a week? How can we reorganize our leisure time? Everyone will have a different answer, we just need to take time and think about it.
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

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