Too much TV is bad for your health

By Deborah Condon

Watching too much television significantly increases the risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, the results of a new study indicate.

Researchers analysed the lifestyles of over 68,000 women over a six-year period, specifically focusing on levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, such as watching television for more than 10 hours per week.

At the beginning of the study, all of the participants had to be free of diabetes, cancer and heart disease and all had to have a body mass index (BMI) of below 30. BMI is a means of assessing whether a person's weight poses a risk to their health and is calculated using their current weight and height. A BMI of 30 or over is classed as obese.

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During the course of the study, over 3,700 women became obese, while 1,500 cases of type 2 diabetes were diagnosed.

The researchers found that those who spent at least three hours per day watching television, had a 40% increased risk of becoming obese and a 30% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with women who watched less than two hours per day.

For those who watched more than five hours of television per day, the risk of obesity increased by 50% while the risk of diabetes rose by 70%.

According to the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, other sedentary behaviour, such as sitting at work all day, is also associated with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.

Standing or walking for at least two hours per day however, is associated with a 9% reduction in obesity and a 12% reduction in diabetes. Meanwhile each hour per day of brisk walking is linked to a 24% reduction in the risk of obesity and a 34% reduction in the risk of diabetes.

"Excessive time in front of the television has been shown to contribute towards bad eating habits, such as eating foods high in saturated fats and increased caloric consumption. The message is simple, when you cut back on sedentary behaviour, you cut back on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity", said Professor Frank Hu, who led the research.

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