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Jun 15, 2011

TV Viewing Increases Risk for Diabetes, Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality

Watching just 2-3 hours of television each day could have big impact on cardiovascular risk.

In 2011, it is estimated that the average American watches 34 hours of television per week. And not surprisingly, with average TV viewing rates at an all-time high, this has taken a serious toll on physical activity. While national guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week — just around 3 hours a week — most adults do not come close to meeting this requirement. But recent findings may finally give people the kick they need to put down the remote and get moving.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that prolonged TV viewing significantly increases risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and all-cause mortality. Results were based on the analysis of data from 8 studies with a combined total of more than 235,000 participants. Researchers found that for every 2 hours of TV watched each day, risk for type 2 diabetes increases by 20%, risk for heart disease increases by 15% and risk for all-cause mortality increases by 13%. Moreover, rates for risk of all-cause mortality were even higher in those watching 3 or more hours of TV each day.

What does this mean for devoted TV viewers? Everything in moderation. Watching some TV each day will likely not impact your health, but sitting in front of the tube for hours on end can significantly increase your risk for serious health conditions, and even death. And just by maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active, you can help reduce the negative health risks associated with excessive TV viewing while still getting to enjoy your favorite shows each week. 

Questions for You to Consider

  • Do factors other than inactivity contribute to health risks associated with TV viewing?

  • Although the sedentary behavior associated with TV viewing is a large part of related health risks, researchers believe there are other factors that contribute to these negative effects. For example, many adults and children partake in unhealthy and mindless eating while watching TV, which can cause weight gain. TV advertisements may also promote unhealthy habits in viewers, such as consuming unhealthy foods or starting to smoke.
  • What is a "healthy" amount of TV viewing?

  • Based on study findings, Americans should limit their TV viewing to less than 2 hours each day. However, a “healthy” amount of TV viewing may vary depending on the health of the viewer. For example, if you watch more than 2 hours of TV each day but exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet and weight, you will likely have less risk for conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes than those with a less healthy lifestyle.

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