How Bad is Television, Computer Time for Your Health? It’s Pretty Bad

It’s little secret that sitting on your butt for long periods of time is bad for your health. But a new study should alarm those of us who spend most of their weekdays sitting at a desk or behind a wheel and then veg out at home in front of a TV or computer screen.

Evidence is mounting that even regular exercise may not be enough to offset all those cumulative hours spent being sedentary.

From The New York Times:

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.

(…)

Recreational screen time has an “independent, deleterious relationship” with cardiovascular events and death of all causes, the paper concluded, possibly because it induces metabolic changes.

Grand Rapids-based furniture-maker Steelcase debuted its treadmill Walkstation in 2007. Would you use it? | Photo credit: Steelcase
Grand Rapids-based furniture-maker Steelcase debuted its treadmill Walkstation in 2007. Would you use it? | Photo credit: Steelcase

The latest study, which followed more than 4,500 Scottish men over several years, focused on recreational screen time because it’s discretionary time. And indeed, the remedies here seem clear cut: watch less TV and manage to tear yourself away from Facebook once in a while. Cook dinner or wash dishes in the kitchen. Play with your kids. Organize the basement. Tinker in the garage. Cut the grass. Take a walk. Exercise.

But many of us are still desk jockeys from 9 to 5, with at least 40 hours of the week devoted to sitting on our butts staring at pixels; what can we do to alleviate the long sedentary hours?

Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Sit for a few hours each day on an exercise ball, which works your core and lower back muscles.
  • Take frequent walks. Select restrooms or supply closets that are farther away than the ones you usually use.
  • Take the stairs. Avoid escalators and elevators when practical.
  • Get up from your chair and touch your toes, or perform a few squats.
  • Ask your boss to buy the department a Walkstation (pictured, above), a combination treadmill and adjustable-height work station that allows you to walk while you work. (No, I’ve never tried one either, but it’s a cool idea from a Michigan company.)

What do you do to keep the blood circulating at work?

Photo Credit: Brandon Leon

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