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Too much television viewing linked to premature death

BY SOLA OGUNDIPE

Adults who watch television three hours or more at a stretch daily may double their risk of premature death compared to those who watch less television.

A new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that increase in the trend of major sedentary behaviour such as televison viewing, was commensurate with increase in premature death from almost all other causes.

“Television viewing is a major sedentary behaviour and there is an increasing trend toward all types of sedentary behaviours,” said  the study’s lead author , Professor Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who is Chair of the Department of Public Health at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain said their  findings are consistent with a range of previous studies where time spent watching television was linked to mortality.

Most common daily activity

Watching television is one of the most common daily activities  in many parts of the world including Nigeria. Millions of people divide their days largely between working, sleeping, and watching television.
While Europeans spend an average of 40 percent of their daily free time in front of the television set, Australians are found in front of the TV 50 percent of their free time. This corresponds to three to four hours of daily viewing respectively.

A reported average of five hours is recorded for Americans corresponding to almost 70 percent. Although figures are not available for Africans, the average daily TV vewing time in Africa’s most populous country is believed to be close to that of the United State of America.

Spanish study: In the Spanish study, researchers assessed 13,284 young and healthy university graduates (average age 37, 60 percent women) to determine the association between three types of sedentary behaviours and risk of death from all causes, viz television viewing time, computer time and driving time. The participants were followed for about eight years after which researchers reported 97 deaths, with 19 deaths from cardiovascular causes, 46 from cancer and 32 from other causes.

Negative health effects of TV viewing have been documented including associations with reduced physical activity levels and unhealthy diets.

Following a  three year-old study from Harvard School of Public Health, researchers concluded that prolonged TV viewing was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.

In the other study, researchers advised that cutting back on TV watching can significantly reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature mortality.

Physical activity: “We should not only promote increasing physical activity levels but also reduce sedentary behaviours, especially prolonged TV watching,” said Lead Researcher, Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology.

The risk of death was two-fold higher for participants who reported watching three or more hours of TV a day compared to those watching one or less hours. This twofold higher risk was also apparent after accounting for a wide array of other variables related to a higher risk of death.

“As the population ages, sedentary behaviours will become more prevalent, especially watching television, and this poses an additional burden on the increased health problems related to aging,” Martinez-Gonzalez said. “Our findings suggest adults may consider increasing their physical activity, avoid long sedentary periods, and reduce television watching to no longer than one to two hours each day.”

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. It also recommends moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening at least two days a week.

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