Break the habit: Watching too much television

We've all heard the warnings: watching too much television will give you square eyes. But what damage does watching too much TV really do? And how can you begin to reverse the damage?

What damage am I doing?

television addiction

The more TV you watch, the higher your odds of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes.

In one study of more than 9,000 women and men, normal-weight people watched about 2.3 hours of TV a day, while overweight people watched 2.6 hours and obese people watched 3 hours or more. The connection? More screen time means less activity and increased eating.

In the same study, people who watched more than 2 hours of TV a day ate 150 more calories a day, downing more pizza, more sugary soft drinks and more high-fat, high-calorie, low-fibre processed snack foods than those who watched less TV.

Small wonder, then, that other studies have linked television viewing with the risk of diabetes in both sexes. In one, those who watched for 40 hours or more a week were three times more likely to develop diabetes than those who watched for less than 10 hours a week. Watching 21 to 40 hours doubled the risk.

If you watch TV instead of keeping up with an old hobby, visiting friends or stretching your mind, you may also hasten memory loss, research shows.


Can I undo the damage?

Completely. By turning TV time into active time, and by committing to a healthy TV/activity balance, you can burn more calories, become fitter and reduce your odds of related health problems quickly.

You'll have a fitter body and more time for sleep, plus more energy, better moods, a sharper mind and more social connection, which may even help you to gain more self-confidence. 


Repair plan

old friends laughing

  • Follow the 2/30 rule. Experts suggest watching no more than 2 hours of TV a day, and doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
  • Set a no-repeat rule. That is, never watch something you've watched before. If you find yourself watching that same old sitcom or film late at night, instantly turn it off.
  • Set a ‘no channel surfing’ rule. Turn on the TV only when there is something you truly want to watch. If you are turning on the TV without any particular show in mind, take that as a sign that you need to be more active.
  • No snacking in front of the TV. It's far too easy to eat hundreds of kilojoules' worth of chips and barely realise it. In fact, many weight-loss programs smartly advise you never to allow food to go beyond your kitchen table. That also means no snacking in bed and no chocolate bars while paying the bills.
  • Exercise while you watch. Walk on the spot, do sit-ups or drag your treadmill into the TV room and use it while you watch.
  • Clean during commercials. Empty wastepaper baskets, vacuum a room, put in a load of washing… it can add up to 20 minutes' worth of kilojoule-burning chore time every hour. When you're finished, your home will shine  and you will have saved hundreds of kilojoules by moving instead of snacking. Added bonus: you won't have to watch all the food commercials designed to make you want to overeat.
  • Resolve to leave home more often. See more friends, do more interesting things and stimulate your mind every day.

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