Television and Obesity Link
Television and Obesity Link. I must be honest; it has been a few years since I last went out shopping for a TV. But recently, I had to visit the local Electronics store and found myself looking at the vast range of televisions and could not believe just how massive the screens have become. I remember going to the Saturday Morning pictures at the local Odeon Cinema as a child. But I’m not sure if the cinema screen matched the incredible high-definition, 85-inch, top-of-the-range screens I was looking at!
Just a little basic research on Google indicated that TV screens have been progressively increasing in size since the launch of commercial TV around 1930. In 1963, the most popular TV manufacturer was Philips. It had an impressive screen size of 23 inches. Can you imagine a family sitting in their lounge, watching what now would be described as a miniature screen?
Jump to 1990, Mitsubishi was selling their new model, which had an incredible screen size of 35 inches. So, screen sizes had grown over 50% in less than 30 years. Today, there is an almost unlimited range on the market, offering screens as large as 85 inches. This, of course, means that they have again doubled in size within the same time frame of 30 years.
So what? You may be thinking. TV screens are getting bigger; the screen definition is continually improving, and the colours are more vivid and intense. And your thinking, so what? And anyway, what’s the connection between TVs and obesity? Probably nothing! But, as I was walking around the Electronics store, I noticed that many of the customers walking around also seemed to be bigger than I remembered. It was plain to see that the number of overweight customers outnumbered those of a normal healthy weight by almost 2 to 1.
Television and Obesity Link
If you look at the almost straight line on the obesity graph, spanning the past few decades, whilst looking at the data on TV screen sizes, you will be excused if you find yourself having to take a second look. The increase in obesity is almost tracking the increase in the size of our TV screens. I started wondering if maybe there was a connection…
No one can argue, there is no place for discussion or debate, that as TV screens became larger, so did we. Of course, it is not just down to us becoming increasingly sedentary, watching more and more TV on ever-growing screens. However, binge-watching entire seasons of the latest TV series over a few days, or sometimes less, is almost an accepted norm now. The almost acceptance of the ‘Obesogenic’ society we find ourselves living in must, of course, take its share of responsibility.
An Obesogenic society is basically one where there is an unlimited availability of energy-dense food (which is mostly junk food). But, at the same time, people are doing very little or restricted physical activity. It’s like a ‘perfect storm’ scenario, perfectly emulating the old saying “too much in, not enough out”. It is hard to argue against it.
The new TVs, of course, are all remote-controlled. Consequently, no one, absolutely no one, ever gets off their backside to change the channel any more. In the same way, we never get up to answer the phone because we keep our mobiles permanently glued to our side! And so, we just sit there on the sofa with our bucket of popcorn, watching our 85-inch TV, expending the bare minimum amount of energy, occasionally saying, “I don’t know why I am putting on weight!” Really !!!
The link between watching a lot of TV and obesity was first explored more than 25 years ago, and the results were published in the National Library of Medicine. The study, back in 1985, found that “In 12- to 17-year-old adolescents, the prevalence of obesity increased by 2% for each additional hour of television viewed.”
Numerous further studies have confirmed that so-called “sit time” in front of the TV increases obesity in both children and adults worldwide. Researchers believe there are three reasons for this. Firstly, TV watching directly replaces time spent doing physical activity. Secondly, it encourages poor diets and unhealthy snacking. And thirdly, it is likely to disrupt sleep quality.
So, how can we take steps to avoid falling into the trap of allowing our ever-growing TV screens to increase the size of our backsides? Well, one very healthy suggestion, direct from the Harvard Public Health website, that we also agree with, is to “replace sit time with fit time”. In other words, aim to limit your daily sedentary activities and increase your physical activity time instead.
Psychology Today reports on research by Massachusetts General Hospital, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2020. The study concluded that people who lack social connections and spend many hours a day on their own watching TV were at risk of suffering from depression. Read our article, ‘The Connection between Depression and Obesity‘. According to the World Health Organisation, depression is a leading cause of disability, which affects around 5% of adults worldwide.
Take a look at over 100 blog page articles on this website; many discuss the connection between depression and obesity. They are so closely linked that it’s often difficult to work out which condition comes first because they form such a vicious circle. People often ask the question, “Does obesity cause depression, or does depression cause obesity?
Television and Obesity Link
One final thought: I have just watched a promo video for a new laser projector TV system, which looked amazing. And the screen size was a whopping 150 inches! Incorporate that with the fact that TV streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney and HBO are reportedly collectively producing thousands of hours of new content every week. The end result is pretty much a tsunami of “Big Screens, more hours of available TV and even bigger Backsides!” Interestingly, the problem never existed years ago; we have a new page: Losing Weight After 60.
In conclusion, the undeniable correlation between the expansion of television screen sizes and the increase in obesity rates should give us pause for thought. As our screens have grown larger and more enticing, so too have our waistlines expanded. While it’s not solely the fault of our entertainment choices, the sedentary lifestyle encouraged by prolonged screen time, unhealthy snacking habits, and disruptions to our sleep patterns all play a significant role in this concerning trend.
The studies conducted over the years confirm that excessive TV watching directly replaces physical activity, promotes poor dietary choices, and can lead to sleep disturbances, all of which contribute to obesity. We cannot ignore the link between television and obesity any longer.
But there is hope. We can take control of our lives and break free from the grip of our screens. By reducing our sedentary time and increasing physical activity, we can mitigate the negative effects of excessive TV watching on our health. Moreover, cultivating social connections and seeking support for mental well-being can help break the vicious cycle of depression and obesity.
So, as we are enticed by ever larger and more impressive screens, let us also remember to balance our screen time with a healthy and active lifestyle. By making conscious choices to prioritize our health, we can ensure that the next generation’s connection between television and obesity doesn’t continue to grow. And if you need assistance on your journey to better health, My Weigh Less is here to help, especially if weight management is a concern.
Answer: Yes, numerous studies have shown a strong connection between the amount of time spent watching TV and the risk of obesity. Prolonged screen time often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and poor sleep, all of which contribute to obesity.
Answer: There are several ways in which excessive TV watching contributes to obesity. It replaces time that could be spent on physical activity, encourages snacking on unhealthy foods, and disrupts sleep patterns, all of which can lead to weight gain.
Answer: This connection affects both children and adults. Research has shown that excessive TV time is a significant risk factor for obesity in adolescents, and the same holds true for adults who spend excessive hours in front of the TV.
Answer: Absolutely. Limiting screen time and replacing it with physical activity, as recommended by experts, is an effective way to prevent or combat obesity. It’s essential to find a balance between entertainment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Answer: Watching TV often goes hand in hand with mindless snacking on calorie-dense, unhealthy foods. The constant exposure to advertisements for such foods can also influence dietary choices, making it crucial to be mindful of what you eat while watching TV.
Answer: While not as detrimental as excessive screen time spent on purely recreational content, watching educational or informative TV programs can still contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. It’s important to maintain a balance and engage in physical activities regularly.
Answer: You can promote healthy habits by setting screen time limits, providing alternative activities, and encouraging outdoor play and exercise. Leading by example and having open discussions about the benefits of a balanced lifestyle can also be effective.
Answer: Yes, research has shown that prolonged isolation and excessive TV watching can lead to depression. Depression and obesity are often intertwined, forming a vicious cycle where one condition can exacerbate the other. It’s crucial to address both aspects for a healthier, happier life.
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