Several studies have demonstrated that excessive screen time—defined as watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet or engaging in other computer-related activities—can have profound adverse effects on your health.
In one study, researchers followed 4,500 Scottish men and women and looked at the impact of screen time entertainment on cardiovascular health.
Dangers of Screen Time
They found that the people who spent at least four hours of their leisure time in front of a TV or computer were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or other cardiac event, and they were 50 percent more likely to die of any cause during the four year follow-up.
Weight gain is a big part of the problem. Obviously, if you’re lounging around, you’re burning fewer calories. Plus, research shows that people eat more during screen time.
But it goes beyond calories. In the Scottish study, in addition to higher body mass indexes (BMIs), the “recreational sitters,” as they were called—including those who got some exercise during the day—had higher levels of cholesterol, C-reactive protein (CRP) and other metabolic risk factors.
Engage in Other Activities and Get Active
I’m not suggesting that you get rid of your TV or Facebook account—in fact, I’m on Facebook myself. But, do make a conscious effort to cut back.
Not all sedentary leisure activities have health risks like screen time, either. For instance, there have been no negative links with hobbies such as reading and playing cards or board games.
Better yet, get outside, take up an active hobby, go to sporting or cultural events, or play with your children or grandkids. Just don’t spend the bulk of your evenings and weekends in front of the TV or computer.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure you engage in some type of physical exercise most days of the week.
More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Exercise and Optimal Health