You might blame TV for many of society's troubles, but it's an established fact that the pounds slowly add up as activity levels drop. You have to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, and watching TV barely moves the calorie burning meter. The average American spends 28 hours per week in front of a TV, and many Americans spend significantly more hours than that sitting on the couch being entertained. Unbelievably, TV watching is the third most time-consuming activity for today's adults, following only work and sleep. Children and adults are doubly affected, by both the lack of movement and the insidious effect of commercials for high calorie junk food.
A study conducted by Stanford University's Center for Research in Disease prevention found that obese children spend a large portion of their time watching television. The study cites three effects, less physical activity, increased calorie consumption while watching television and a surprisingly reduced resting metabolism, meaning even at rest they are burning fewer calories than normal. Researchers analyzed a study specifically designed to test the relationship between television viewing and body weight. They found evidence supporting the assumption that increased TV time causes increased fatness and that reducing the number of hours in front of the television shows promise for preventing childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity rates are a strong indicator of later adult obesity rates, and the reduction of overweight children should proportionately lead to a reduction in adult obesity rates and the chronic diseases that accompany obesity.
Another study analyzed the effects of television commercials on children, finding that especially for children younger than seven; they play a major role in childhood obesity rates. Children who only watch videos or commercial-free television have a greatly reduced risk of obesity. So, there is more than just inactivity at work. Researchers factored out variables that might also be in play such as the mother's weight and education, the child's physical activity and still, the effects of increased exposure to commercials showed a corresponding increased risk for childhood obesity.
This study noted that children see about 30 hours of food advertising every week which peaks during Saturday children's programming when children are exposed to food advertising once every five minutes. Savvy advertising makes even the most empty-calorie food seem incredibly appealing to children. This translates to desire for these sugary and fatty foods.
So what about adults? One study involving over 6000 adult, working men found that the number of hours spent watching television was strongly associated with obesity. The study raised the question of cause and effect, is increased television viewing a result of obesity or vice versa? Researchers suggested that increased TV time means an increase in calorie intake, frequently the same empty calorie, high sugar, high fat foods that are advertised on TV.
So, turn off the TV, grab your walking shoes or jump on the exercise equipment and start burning those calories!
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