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London - More Than 4 Hours a Day in Front of a Screen Shortens Your Life

Published on: January 11, 2011 10:46 PM
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London - Too much time spent watching TV or sitting in front of a computer may increase your risk for heart disease and even shorten your life, a new British study found.

In fact, if you spend four hours a day or more of your leisure time watching TV, using the computer or playing video games, you are more than two times more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, heart failure or die, according to the study.

“Our research suggests that screen time and perhaps sitting in general can be very detrimental for overall and cardiovascular health,” said lead researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, a senior research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.

“Given that the large majority of people of working age have sedentary jobs and spend long periods of time commuting or driving, which involve even more sitting, leisure time should involve as little sitting and as much movement as possible,” he said.

The report is published in the Jan. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.


For the study, Stamatakis’s team collected data on 4,512 adults who responded to the 2003 Scottish Health Survey, which among other things asked about leisure time activities.

During 4.3 years of follow-up, 325 of these people died and 215 had a cardiovascular event, the researchers reported.

Stamatakis’ group found that compared with those who spent less than two hours a day in front of a screen, those who spent four or more hours watching TV or playing or working on the computer had a 48 percent increased risk for dying from any cause and a 125 percent increased risk for having a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

Moreover, the risk calculations remained even after taking into account such factors as smoking, high blood pressure, weight, social class and exercise, the researchers noted.

“Importantly, participation in exercise did not seem to mitigate against the harms associated with excessive screen times,” Stamatakis said.

In addition, biology appears to play a role. For example, one-fourth of the link between screen time and heart attack was associated with levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation along with weight and cholesterol, suggesting that inflammation and high cholesterol, combined with sitting, may increase the risk for cardiovascular events, the researchers said.

One way to keep healthy is to limit the amount of time spent sitting, Stamatakis said. Start by watching less TV, which many people do three to four hours a day, he added.

“This is excessive,” he said. “And besides, TV watching [is] a waste of time in the most passive and uncreative way, in most cases. It also displaces hugely beneficial physical activity and, according to our findings, is also linked to unique and distinct risks for health.”

Commenting on the study, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, said that “what I like about this study is it helps us understand the significant role that a sedentary lifestyle has on the risk of heart disease.”

“We are all so fixated during the workday on the computer, and sitting has become such a regular part of our lives, that if we choose to sit for leisure, it’s really harmful for us,” she said.

Steinbaum recommends doing something physical every day—and not sitting when you don’t have to. “Leisure activity should be something that helps get [you] moving, no matter what this is,” she said.

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Read Comments (9)  —  Post Yours »


 Jan 11, 2011 at 11:07 PM Rachel W. Says:

Can we then apply these statistics to bookworms too? Or is it only "screentime" that's harmful... in which case it's not the sedentary factor that does the harm. Just wondering.


 Jan 12, 2011 at 08:15 AM Gefilte Fish Says:

Time to bring the TV and the treadmill together.


 Jan 12, 2011 at 08:55 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Gefilte Fish Says:

Time to bring the TV and the treadmill together.

They already do that in gyms.


 Jan 12, 2011 at 09:06 AM ModernLakewoodGuy Says:

this is especially concerning to those of us who work in front of a computer 8-10 hours a day. What can we do if we need it for work?

There is a very simple solution

Convert your desk to a standing desk. You can do this easily with some boxes to raise your monitor and keyboard, or spend a little money on a standing desk. This will eliminate all of the risk discussed in this article. In fact you will have more energy, burn more calories and feel less tired at the end of the day. You can also keep a bar stool near by so once an hour you can sit for 5-10 minutes to give your feet/back a rest. I have been doing this for 3 months and the difference in how I feel is nothing short of a miracle.


 Jan 12, 2011 at 09:13 AM lamdan Says:

What about that it shortens your ruchneeyos life? That these so called professors don't mention


 Jan 12, 2011 at 10:08 AM Chaim Says:

Reply to #5  
lamdan Says:

What about that it shortens your ruchneeyos life? That these so called professors don't mention

#5 Perhaps they did not mention it because it doesn't


 Jan 12, 2011 at 11:03 AM momanon Says:

what about sitting and learning? not only could those guys who sit all day use exercise, it would also help them learn better by bringing much needed oxygen to their brains! but that will never happen, cuz many of them consider exercise bittul zman! oh welll....


 Jan 12, 2011 at 04:04 PM Erlich Says:

#7 is right. What about the yungerleit studing Gemara, Tosfos, Rishonim & Achronim ten hours a day in a yeshiva or kollel?


 Jan 14, 2011 at 08:34 AM delusional people Says:

Reply to #5  
lamdan Says:

What about that it shortens your ruchneeyos life? That these so called professors don't mention

because they are scientists, not rabbeim. Do you want these professors to pasken for you halacha as well?


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