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ECU Professor says too much TV is bad for your health

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

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Professor David Dunstan, Adjunct Professor at ECU’s Vario Health Institute, has been working with a team of Australian researchers to uncover the real health risks of a ‘couch potato’ or sedentary lifestyle.

The team tracked the lifestyle habits of 8,800 adults and found that each hour spent in front of the television daily was associated with:

  • an 11 percent increased risk of death from all causes,
  • a 9 percent increased risk of cancer death; and
  • an 18 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death.

Compared with people who watched less than two hours of television daily, those who watched more than four hours a day had a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 80 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease-related death. 

While the study focused specifically on television watching, the findings suggest that any prolonged sedentary behavior, such as sitting at a desk or in front of a computer, may pose a risk to one’s health. 

The human body was designed to move, not sit for extended periods of time, said Professor Dunstan, the study’s lead author and Head of the Physical Activity Laboratory (Metabolism and Obesity division) at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Victoria.

“What has happened is that a lot of the normal activities of daily living that involved standing up and moving the muscles in the body have been converted to sitting,” Professor Dunstan said. 

“Technological, social, and economic changes mean that people don’t move their muscles as much as they used to - consequently the levels of energy expenditure as people go about their lives continue to shrink.

“For many people, on a daily basis they simply shift from one chair to another - from the chair in the car to the chair in the office to the chair in front of the television.”

Professor Dunstan says that avoiding these risks is a simply a matter of incorporating more physical activity into each day.

“In addition to doing regular exercise, avoid sitting for prolonged periods and keep in mind to ‘move more, more often’.  Too much sitting is bad for health.”

ECU’s Vario Wellness Clinic offers leading edge wellness programs across the disciplines of exercise physiology, dietetics, occupational therapy, psychology and physiotherapy. For more information about the programs available, visit the Vario Wellness Clinic website.

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