Finding things to do instead of watching TV is becoming increasingly difficult, considering how many Americans have immediate access to a seemingly endless array of reality shows, video games, music, movies and essentially anything else you could possibly watch on TV.
There are many problems with unrestricted television time, all of which impact directly on your health. Here are four important reasons to turn off the TV and tune into healthy alternatives:
1. One with the couch: Plop down on the couch with the remote and before you know it, you're effectively one with the couch. It might take a crane or a giant spatula to get you back on your feet. The problem: Every hour on the couch is another hour of inactivity, which lowers your metabolism, increases your odds of weight gain and means you have less time available to do one simple, extremely important thing: move. Studies suggest that people who spend more time watching TV spend less time exercising than people who limit TV time.
2. The snack bar is open: Inevitably, hunger pangs start to kick in as one TV show bleeds into another ... and another. The majority of the time, we satisfy our hunger not with a balanced meal, but with decidedly less balanced, less nutritious, more calorie- and fat-laden snacks, particularly the processed variety. Excessive TV time can also mean you stay up later than you normally would, chowing down extra calories right before bedtime. The problem: The more calories you consume, particularly the empty kind, ups your odds of gaining weight and developing a weight-related health condition like diabetes.
3. Information overload: Speaking of bedtime, evidence also suggests television can impact sleep in a negative fashion. Think about the last time you stayed up late watching hour after hour of TV. It's likely that you started to doze off on several occasions (or maybe even fell asleep altogether, only to wake up uncomfortably a few hours later). The problem: Refreshing, restorative sleep is innately tied to our health and wellness, particularly over the long term. Ideally, you should fall asleep before you're exhausted and sleep through the night, allowing your body to experience all of the sleep stages uninterrupted. Waking up on an uncomfortable couch after 2-3 hours, or stretching your limits to watch that late-night TV show, does little to give your body the rest it needs.
4. It’s depressing: A study done in 2009 linked television watching in early adolescence to the development of depression later in life. According to researchers, “Those reporting more television use had significantly greater odds of developing depression for each additional hour of daily use.” (Primack, Swanier, Georgiopoulos, Land, and Fine, "Association Between Media Use in Adolescence and Depression in Young Adulthood", Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2009).
Television is a great way to get information, have a good laugh or cry, and just "escape" from the world for a little while. But like anything else, moderation is key. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about the dangers of excessive television time and why you should make sure "family time" and "TV time" aren't one in the same.