According to Statista.com, in 2016, Americans spent an average time of 4 ½ hours daily watching television. Compared to other countries, the UK spent 3 hours and 32 minutes, and both Germany and France 3 hours and 43 minutes. However, there are conflicting reports concerning just how good or bad television watching is. At what point does television become unhealthy? Is TV any good at all?
Large amounts of television watching have been associated with an increased risk of diseases such as obesity. Another connection made with too much television is increased levels of blood pressure.
According to The Telegraph, limiting television to two hours per day could increase one’s life expectancy by about a year and a half. This is a huge contrast to the statistics mentioned above.
The number-one health concern with watching television has to do with the fact that one is sitting down when engaging in the process. Long hours of sitting, which often happens, for example, at office jobs, or playing video games, has been linked with negative effects on cardiovascular health. It is essential for the body to be often moving.
Another concern with watching too much television is that it is associated with eating unhealthy foods, such as eating potato chips or drinking beer while sitting on the couch for hours. While this may be comfortable for some people, it could lead to serious long-term effects on health if frequently done. In this case, watching television would be a bad habit in combination with other bad habits (e.g., eating junk food, higher levels of consumption of alcohol, etc.)
Limiting television to two hours per day for a country that already spends over four would seem like a good idea. Now, here are some further tips that could help one avoid the negative effects of watching television:
Take a Day Off
No constitutional law mandates that one should watch television every day. One could perhaps take a day off every week from television. For example, instead of watching an hour or two of television on Sunday, probably go for a walk instead. Or, rather than watch television on Saturday, substitute watching television that day for another activity that could stimulate your mind, such as solving crossword puzzles or playing Bingo with family or friends.
Rather than sit through endless commercials that you probably won’t buy from, you could instead use this time to move around. Why not grab a glass of water, or check off events on the calendar? If one is watching a television series on Netflix, each episode doesn't usually last longer than half an hour. Take some time between every episode to get moving and take out the trash, or feed the cat, or stretch and walk around the house a bit.
If you're watching with someone else, say you need to take a short break or engage in dialogue about the episode you've just watched. How does the storyline connect with your life? Is there something you like about a particular character or the relationship between two characters? You can do this while standing!
Don’t Eat (While Watching TV)
As mentioned before, watching television has been associated with eating junk food and drinking alcohol along with it. Watching your favorite show and drinking beer every once in a while won’t probably do you too much harm, but make it a rule not to eat while watching television. Eating takes your attention away from the program. Why not devote your full attention to your entertainment?
The same works in reverse. Watching television while having dinner with your family also ruins the quality of conversations because it is a distraction. People unresponsive to you are talking over you! So, it’s best to keep these activities separate. Otherwise, bad habits could form. If this is already a habit for you, listen to music while eating dinner, and drink a glass of water while watching television instead.
Go the Extra Mile
No, I’m not saying here to walk a mile, although that would be great! Research does suggest that less than two hours of television a day could increase one’s life expectancy, but is it really necessary? Do you just have one show you like to see? If you narrow your focus on that one show, then you are already getting less than an hour of television a day, assuming you watch one or two episodes. If you aren’t interested in watching anything else, then why should you? And if you are, you could always watch it after the former show’s season ends.
Of course, this article is not suggesting anyone watch television who doesn't do so already. If you don't feel the need to watch television, you don't have to! This article is for those who already watch it and are wondering if it’s bad for their health. This also raises an important question: why are you watching television? Do you think you have nothing better to do?
There are people to meet, places to see, and television is only a reflection of life; it’s not life itself. So, asking oneself the reasoning for watching tv would be a good thing. Are you avoiding life, or enjoying it, through TV? Are you watching because you’d like to relax after an evening out with friends? Great.
Are you watching French television to practice your French and expand your mind? Wonderful. My ideal recommendation: limit it to one hour on average per day, with one day off per week, and without food, and with at least one five-minute intermission!