The Sofa Is Not Your Friend

Spending hours idly watching TV or staring at a computer screen can shorten your life.

A new study has found that people who spend a lot of time watching TV are at much greater risk for death from cardiovascular disease. You might expect that, obesity and inactivity being major causes of heart problems, but the researchers found the health risk was huge even among those who regularly exercised.

In a study in Australia, scientists interviewed nearly 9,000 people about their health and TV habits. Six years later, they tracked down the same people and found that 87 of them had died.

Using the data from the victims, and adjusting for other factors, the researchers found that those who watched four hours or more of TV per day had an 80 percent greater risk for cardiovascular disease and a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes than those who watched less than two hours per day.

“The message here is that in addition to promoting regular exercise, we also need to promote avoiding long periods of sitting, such as spending long hours in front of the computer screen,” Dr. David Dunstan told the Los Angeles Times. “When we’re in that sitting posture, we’re not using our muscles, and we know from extensive evidence that muscle contractions are important for the body’s regulatory processes, such as the ability to break down glucose and use it as energy.”

(Of course, this study doesn’t apply to time spent enjoying We’re good for you!)

Full story here.

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  • DVDs We’ve Seen: “(500) Days of Summer,” an occasionally amusing film about a young guy’s obsession with a flaky girl named Summer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s so good in most films, is okay, and Zooey Deschanel is lovely, but the movie never clicked for me.
  • Rules for Successful Living #15: Handling poisonous reptiles will not get you into Heaven.

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is the author of CUTTHROAT and 17 other books. Read more of his columns at, or follow him on Facebook.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar CerebralAlchemist says:

    Good article, totally agree… my only static is philosophically versus socially regarding this (common) statement…

    "… can shorten your life."

    Questions that arise:

    1. How long am I supposed to live?

    2. How did you arrive at the answer to 'how long I am supposed to live'?

    Interestingly there is a PBS special available (I believe on youtube as well) called 'ghost in the genes' which talks about how the choices of our grand parents and great grandparents as well as uncontrollable conditions (the great depression) have effected our DNA… since I can't control what they did and it effects the length of my life experience, how am I supposed to mitigate the stress generated by a shortened life due to factors that were the decision of others?

    That is the kind of 'meme' that statements like that generate… I always view articles that rather choose to use statements like "… can lead to a healthier life." which is of course a provable and non-stressful statement that carries weight without inducing fear or stress.

    I hope I'm not being to critical… it just seems that when trying to make people healthier that inducing stress is sort of counter-productive.

    • Avatar Ivan Toblog says:

      Um… aren't experts paid to induce stress?
      The number one skill an expert seems to have is that he knows how to say, "You're doing it wrong," without ever actually using any of those words.

  2. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    That study may be incomplete. Did they address what sorts of shows they were watching? I suspect re-runs of "I Love Lucy" might produce less stress than watching the news for hours.

  3. Avatar Rick L. says:

    If you're watching four hours a day of reruns, check your pulse, you're dead already.

  4. Avatar Kathryn says:

    I think the content of most TV and commercials could give someone heart disease. I don't partake, but unfortunately, I got a good dose of TV during a one-week stint of "vacation." The images on the screen often stopped my heart. Pregnant mothers killed by drunk drivers, details of driveby shootings, footage of homes burning to the ground: I watched about thirty minutes per day, and my heart ached.

  5. Avatar Bryan Hill says:

    I heard this thriough an interview broadcast on NPR. I wondered if going back and forth to the fridge and returning with weights in the twelve ounce range, it is play-off season, counted as exercise.