Being a couch potato is even worse for your health than you might imagine, according to a new study that found evey hour per day spent watching TV increases a person’s risk of dying from heart disease by almost one-fifth.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, reveals that the more television a person watches, the more likely they are to die of heart disease, regardless of how physically fit or unfit they are.
“Even if someone has a healthy body weight, sitting for long periods of time still has an unhealthy influence on their blood sugar and blood fats,” lead researcher Professor David Dunstan told London’s The Independent.
Australian researchers followed a group of 8,800 adults for six years, taking into account their individual risk factors. They grouped them into three categories based on their viewing habits: under two hours of television, two to four hours of television and four or more hours of television.
The group that watched four or more hours was 80% more likely to die of heart disease, based on sugar tolerance tests and blood samples. Every hour of viewing increased the risk of all death by 11% and the risk of cancer by 9%.
“What has happened is that a lot of the normal activities of daily living that involved standing up and moving the muscles in the body have been converted to sitting,” Prof. Dunstan said. “Technological, social and economic changes mean that people don’t move their muscles as much as they used to – consequently the levels of energy expenditure as people go about their lives continue to shrink.
“For many people, on a daily basis they simply shift from one chair to another – from the chair in the car to the chair in the office to the chair in front of the television.”
Within the study’s duration, 284 of the subjects died, 87 of heart disease and 125 of cancer. The scientists noted, however, that it was not television itself that increases the risk of death, but any sedentary existence, including sitting at a desk for hours at a time.
Dunstan warned, “In addition to doing regular exercise, avoid sitting for prolonged periods and keep in mind to ‘move more, more often’. Too much sitting is bad for health.”