From Couch Potato to Hot Tamale

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The famous saying, "It is not what TV does to you, but what it stops you from doing," is loud and clear! With the current run of reality shows, it seems as though people prefer to be idle and watch "American Idol" than move around.

A Generation of TV Junkies
Are you a TV junkie? One thing can determine this for sure. If you associate the hours in the day with a specific television program, then chances are, you are a TV junkie! I must admit that I definitely fall in to this category of addiction. There are just certain television programs, reality and drama alike, that just make my Wednesday or Friday seem to have a purpose (I'm kidding, of course). It is kind of sad when you think about it, that purpose in a day is determined by thoughts of watching drama unfold on the hit show House or sitting with food in hand watching the Biggest Loser. When all is said and done at the end of the day, when supper has been eaten and the kids have been put to bed, the average person sits and stares at the TV for 2 to 3 hours per evening. Television may be relaxing for the mind, a way of just escaping the hustle and stress of "real" life, but what is it doing to your body?

Are You the Biggest Loser?
The rationale of the hit reality show "Biggest Loser" has a very positive association. In fact, the biggest loser is the person who loses the most weight, something that should and often is rewarded. But the question is, what is it doing to you when you sit there staring at the screen? Are you cheating yourself of quality time reading, praying, reflecting or exercising? You exercise at the gym 3 to 4 times a week for 40 minutes and that satisfies your health urges. Or, perhaps you've decided that TV helps you loosen up and you don't feel like reading after working and running around all day. That's fine, we all have the power of choice and you have fulfilled other aspects of your life. How about those of you who don't have time to exercise or who don't make time to exercise anytime during the day? What is watching TV stopping you from doing? Are you cheating yourself and your health? Research has shown that accumulating physical activity during the day such as walking to the bus stop or to work has many health benefits similar to participating in regular planned exercise sessions.

One Step At a Time
A pedometer, a small electronic device which hangs from a belt, is used in many studies to measure the amount of steps per day that are associated with the greatest health benefits. Studies show that accumulating approximately 10,000 steps per day promote numerous health benefits to various systems in the body. A recent study conducted in the American Journal of Public Health (2006), assessed whether or not television watching negatively impacted the goal of accumulating 10,000 steps per day. The average participant in the study watched 3.6 hours of television per night and each hour of TV viewing on average was associated with 144 fewer steps, with a total of 520 fewer steps per day. Over the course of a week and months, the average TV viewer can be silently harming their health.

Is There a Solution?
It is obvious that TV watching is on the rise and is probably not going to decline. For some, the research results may not be enough of a statement, given that 144 steps per hour seems minimal. When combined with late night snacking, especially on high-fat, low nutritious snacks above and beyond the scheduled meals, excessive TV watching can lead to weight gain and health implications later on.

If you are an avid exerciser, then TV may be less of a problem, as long as it is not keeping you from other aspects of your life. For those of you who rely on accumulated daily physical activity, if you are not willing to cut back on your TV watching, then you need to be more active during your TV watching. As a simple solution, if adding steps to your day is your goal, simply stand up in between commercials and walk on the spot. Walking from the couch to the fridge to get a snack doesn't count. For those of you who are more ambitious, you can conduct an entire exercise session in front of the TV by performing various callisthenic exercises using your body weight, tubes or dumbbells. The duration of each commercial could act as a full set of a particular exercise. If you move while watching TV, not only will you take control of your health, but you will also decrease the chance of munching on unhealthy foods.

It is all about control and choice, so make the right decision for your health and ultimately, for your life as well. If you are like me, then TV has fortunately or unfortunately become part of your lifestyle. The answer isn't giving it up, but simply becoming smarter with your time.


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