Researchers looked at health outcomes from two large studies on lifestyle behaviors and released some scary findings: An adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV (or engaging in other types of sedentary behavior) over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years less than a person who does not. Television and video games are not the only culprits; sitting for a long time behind a desk or in a car each day can also put you at risk.
But don’t fret. There are several things you can encourage your family to do to prevent the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
- Set limits on screen time. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two have no screen time, and children over age two limit screen time to no more than two hours per day. The Center on Media & Child Health is a great resource to help your family set and keep healthy media viewing habits.
- Take physical activity breaks from screen time. Research has shown that even short bursts of physical activity, accumulated throughout the day, can have positive effects on health. If you’re watching a movie on television, try doing jumping jacks, push-ups, or yoga poses during commercial breaks with your family.
- Hide the remote. Keep the remote somewhere inconvenient so that you have to stand up and walk to the television each time you want to change the channel or adjust the volume. The extra steps help break up sedentary behavior and may encourage you to watch less TV if it’s inconvenient.
- Stand; don’t sit. Parents- if you’re at work, try taking phone calls while standing instead of sitting. Commuting on the bus or the T? Give up your seat to someone else and engage your muscles on your way to work.
Remember that anything you can do to reduce the number of minutes each day that you spend sitting can benefit your health. Walk to the pharmacy. Take the stairs to talk to a coworker. Opt for a bike ride instead of a trip to the movie theater with your kids on the weekend. Small changes can have big payoff for your health!