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Revealed: How to Easily Reduce Chronic Midlife Diseases with a Remote Control

It’s amazing how, with a simple push of a button, all of us could live longer and healthier. It’s also distressing how difficult it is to push that button.

According to a recent report, using the off button on TV remote control could reduce the risk of chronic illnesses that impact many of us in middle age like, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The data from the study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health was an eye opener. With such an overall potential for a positive health and wellness outcome in my life, the study makes me question many of my TV watching habits and those I’ve inadvertently instilled in my children.

The study, published in the June, 2011, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that watching 2 hours of TV per day:

  • Increased the risk for type 2 diabetes by 20%
  • Created a higher chance of cardiovascular disease by 15%
  • Raised the risk of “all-cause death” by 13%

Do We Really Watch 2 Hours of TV a Day?

Two hours of television per day might seem like a lot, but it’s actually less than half the number of hours the average American watches TV. In the U.S., the average TV viewing time is 5 hours per day. In Europe, it’s around 3 hours and in Australia it’s 4 hours per day. If the average is 4 hours per day watching television, let’s see what that really adds up to:

  • 28 hours per week
  • That’s more than 1 day per week dedicated to watching TV
  • Just under 2 months out of the year

Put into that perspective, it’s mindboggling how much time TV consumes our lives.

While I might not be hitting the 5 hour mark, I can easily surpass 2 hours by watching 30 minutes of news, a 30 minute sitcom, an hour drama or a 2 hour movie. For most of us in middle age, that’s probably a normal day: Work, dinner and TV to relax.

As for kids? Mine probably hit the daily 5 hours frequently with a combination of Family Guy, Tosh 2.0, sport event recordings and whatever else is popular in their social circle these days. Add in Xbox games and conversing on social media sites and physical activity is taking a very low priority in their lives. I think they’re probably average U.S. kids.

Television has become such an ordinary part of our lives it’s astonishing how this habit might be killing us in the long run.

How Can Television Watching Harm Us?

The researchers of the study explained that the act of TV watching can sway lifestyle choices. For example, unhealthy eating habits and sedentary activities seem to go hand in hand with watching TV. This can lead to obesity, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease in midlife.

Basically, hours watching television replace the time we can be getting fit with calorie burning and heart strengthening activities. Or eating a healthy diet.

Even those who do exercise, they might not be getting enough. If we’re spending an average 3 to 5 hours a day watching television, what time is left for actual physical activity? Not to mention getting the proper 6 to 8 hours of sleep recommended by health experts.

And, while the report focused on the health issues of TV watching, I think there’s a social impact as well. Many of those hours throughout the year could be spent on quality time with family and friends.

What’s the Solution? Well….

Really, it’s simple. Turn off the TV or significantly cut back on watching it. That’s what this woman did during the Scale Back Alabama program:

According to the Harvard School of Public Health researchers, “cutting back on TV watching can significantly reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature mortality.” Those are enormous benefits that has caught my attention.

Kicking a lifelong habit can be difficult, especially in middle age. It certainly will be in our household. Watching TV is an entrenched activity in our lifestyle. But, we’re going to look for ways to replace the habit with other activities:

  • Taking a walk or going for a bike ride
  • Working in the yard
  • Talking with friends and family (getting back to that community thing)
  • Starting a new hobby
  • Exercising
  • Even reading a book or playing board games to exercise our minds

While we won’t completely eliminate TV from our lives, the goal is to significantly reduce the time we spend in front of it. And we’ll find ways to make watching TV a bit healthier, for example:

  • Eat healthier foods
  • Get some weights and do arm curls
  • Fold and iron the laundry
  • Do stretches and exercises during commercials

In reality, gaining control of the TV remote control is about taking control of our health and our lives.

Have you cut back on watching TV? Visit our community on Facebook.com/HealthyMidlife and share your experience.

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