Great news, everybody! Television is only twice as bad for you as smoking!

Get Up. Get Out. Don't Sit.

Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer's life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.

By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said.

Looking more broadly, they concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not watch TV.

Those results hold true, the authors point out, even for people who exercise regularly. It appears, Dr. Veerman says, that "a person who does a lot of exercise but watches six hours of TV" every night "might have a similar mortality risk as someone who does not exercise and watches no TV." [...]

Why a seemingly blameless activity like sitting should be detrimental to health, even for those of us who work out, is not fully understood, although it is assiduously being studied at many labs.

One partial explanation, however, is obvious. "The most striking feature of prolonged sitting is the absence of skeletal muscle contractions, particularly in the very large muscles of the lower limbs," says David W. Dunstan, a professor at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia, senior author of the Australian study, and a pioneer in the study of sedentary behavior.

When muscles don't contract, they require less fuel, and the surplus, in the form of blood sugar, accumulates in the bloodstream, contributing to diabetes risk and other health concerns.

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15 Responses:

  1. crowder says:

    What if I smoke sitting down? Is the damage incremental?

  2. krv says:

    This is garbage psuedo science. Probably all it's saying is lower IQ people die younger, and dumb people watch a lot of TV. But we already knew that.

  3. Adolf Osborne says:

    Wait, what? Do people actually watch six hours of TV a day, these days?

    I thought that the golden age of broadcast was well behind us in these modern enlightened times.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      I think that was a hypothetical example; that's how much TV you'd have to watch before the positive effects of exercise no longer balance out.

  4. phuzz says:

    So if I generally smoke about 3 fags an hour, and I watch about 3 hours of TV a week, how fucked am I?

  5. Don says:

    If we're going to throw around "THIS IS KILLING YOU!" stuff then maybe we should spend more time pointing the finger at jobs that have folks sitting on their butts for 8 hours a day. That's more time than folks watch tv, innit? Plus, you know, jobs suck. At least tv has some good cable channels and DVDs.

    • Leolo says:

      My thoughts exactly. 6 hour sitting a day? I've been doing more then that for 20+ years.

      I do wonder if something like working while sitting being (slightly) more active then just sitting watching.

  6. I spend six hours or more in front of my computer. How 'bout that?

  7. Tedlick says:

    You mean my grandfather's life expectancy could have been 140 years?

    I'm unsure how that would have been better, unless watching television also caused his Alzheimer's.

  8. Edouard says:

    (Boy, there seems to be quite a lot of "I don't want to hear that" in the comments)

    Anyway, this reminds me of a study I read a few months ago where they were investigating the notion that different people had different metabolisms, and were working with groups that had quite different BMIs even though their caloric intakes and lifestyles were quite similar.

    They strapped a monitor onto their thighs, and found that the "slow metabolism" subjects sat perfectly still for hours at desks and on couches, whereas the "fast metabolism" subjects were constantly moving, shifting, getting up and down, etc.

    They concluded that the wrigglers major muscle groups never moved into reduced energy mode that the other subjects muscles did, and that was actually the only difference between so-called "fast" and "slow" metabolisms.

    • Owen W. says:

      Do you have a link for this? It makes anecdotal / intuitive sense to me, but I'd like to read more. (googling the topic results in a lot of shit weight-loss links)

      • ix says:

        This somewhat fluff nytimes article mentions it:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17sitting-t.html

        I do wonder whether they thought there's anything special about watching TV. Probably it applies to anything else that also includes sitting. I think actually quite few of modern office workers get a lot of exercise. Mine's confined to getting to and from work, and the couple of hours a week I spend on sports. I guess standing up while cooking your own meal helps?