OK, so we’ve all done it. You come home from a long day and your roommate is watching a marathon of “I Love the 80’s” on VH-1. So you sit down for a couple of minutes and before you know it, three hours have passed.
You didn’t mean to do it, you were going to study for two hours and then go for a run, but the TV sucked you in, you couldn’t tear yourself away.
If you haven’t shared in this experience, then you probably know someone who has. The Nielson ratings reported that during the last television season, each American spent an average of four and a half hours every day watching TV, an all-time record for us. We’ve beat England’s record of two hours a day, and even their health professionals are concerned.
Leading obesity experts are linking TV watching to obesity, but are quick to state that a sedentary lifestyle combined with high-calorie foods are the real culprits of the obesity epidemic.
Researchers in New Zealand completed a study where they recorded the TV viewing habits and the foods consumed by a group of 1,000 children and teenagers. By age 26, 41 percent of the participants were overweight or obese.
Their BMI’s (Body Mass Index, a ratio of weight to height) increased as the average amount of TV they watched increased. The trend held true for these children despite their socioeconomic status or how much their parents weighed.
What’s the good news? Well, the Amish are Americans, and they’re not obese. A study released last year describes something called the Amish Paradox. Overall, the Amish have only a 4 percent obesity rate, while the rest of the country has about 31 percent obese rate.
The Amish eat a high calorie, high sugar, and high fat diet of foods like eggs, ham, gravy, cakes and pies. How do they do it? Well they have no electricity, so TV is totally out of the question-and they exercise.
Researchers studied 98 Old Order Amish and determined that they were walking an average of 18,000 steps per day.
The recommendation for Americans is 10,000 steps per day (but few of us reach it). Amish men spend about 10 hours per week in activities that count as vigorous exercise, while Amish women spend about 3.5 hours per week.
So what does this mean? Well, don’t go crazy, but go do something. By increasing your exercise and decreasing the amount of junk food you eat today, you can drastically decrease your chances of obesity and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. So turn off your TV and go do something, after all, VH-1 will air the reruns later!
Robin and Jessica are senior nutrition students and Peer Health Educators. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org