This is really bad news for couch potatoes, as well as the rest of us who have desk jobs, but still cram in workouts to make sure we stay fit and healthy. Now studies show that it’s all for nought, and not even the most dedicated among us are immune to the negative affects of a sedentary lifestyle. This is more reason to get out and do things with your kids as an ongoing habit, and to teach them never to get into the TV habit. This is easier said than done. As for me, it sounds like I can just about hang it up, after a career mostly sitting at a desk and in front of a screen, especially if the workouts don’t make a difference.
The latest findings, published this week in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, indicate that the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of a screen can have such an overwhelming, seemingly irreparable impact on one’s health that physical activity doesn’t produce much benefit.
The study followed 4,512 middle-aged Scottish men for a little more than four years on average. It found that those who said they spent two or more leisure hours a day sitting in front of a screen were at double the risk of a heart attack or other cardiac event compared with those who watched less. Those who spent four or more hours of recreational time in front of a screen were 50 percent more likely to die of any cause. It didn’t matter whether the men were physically active for several hours a week — exercise didn’t mitigate the risk associated with the high amount of sedentary screen time.
The study is not the first to suggest that sedentary activities like television viewing may be harmful. A study last year found that men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars were more likely to die of heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less, even if they exercised. And a 2009 study reported that young children who watch one and a half to five and a half hours of TV a day have higher blood pressure readings than those who watch less than half an hour, even if they are thin and physically active.