Will a TV viewing cap help you to live longer?

Scientists say that reducing television viewing to fewer than two hours per day could add nearly a year and a half to your life expectancy.

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Most adults in Britain – studies say between two-thirds and five-sixths – sit for more than two hours every day in front of the television. It is evident that too much time being sedentary is bad for the heart, even if you take regular exercise.

Scientists in the US have tried to calculate how risky this lifestyle is. By collating the results of various studies, they calculated that if people cut down their TV viewing to at most two hours a day from birth, they would live an average 1.4 more years than they do now.

I-Min Lee and Peter Katzmarzyk, based at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Baton Rouge, also examined the impact of total sitting time – including watching television – on life expectancy, publishing the results in the journal BMJ Open.

Limit your sitting time

They estimated that if people kept their sitting time down to three hours a day, life expectancy would rise by an average of two years. Meanwhile, researchers in Australia say that every hour of TV viewing could decrease life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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The scientists examined two studies. The first, the Canadian Fitness Survey, found that nearly 50 per cent admitted to sitting down for at least half the day; the next, a US study, found that just over 50 per cent spent at least half of their free time seated. An earlier US study discovered that the average adult sits for an average of 7.7 hours per day.

Study results

Lee and Katzmarzyk concluded that extensive sitting time while viewing TV may reduce the length of time you live. They commented that a big change in behaviour is necessary to enhance life expectancy.

Professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, David Spiegelhalter, concurred. He said that if generations to come were to move about more, they could indeed generally live longer; however, since most of us spend more than three hours sitting down daily, this is a rather optimistic target.

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