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Your TV and Computer are Trying to Kill You [Research says you sit too much and your mama dresses you funny.]

Posted Jan 14 2011 8:22am
I suppose this is one alternative. Strangely I don't think researchers would look kindly on this method either.

"Why don't you kids go watch TV for a bit? Mommy has some work to get done."

"But we're not allowed to watch TV in the mornings!" (It's true but since when did they become such rule-abiding sticklers? The unflushed toilets and mound of dirty laundry says otherwise.)

"Well you are when you wake up at 6 a.m." (I get ONE hour every morning to work. ONE hour of peace and quiet where I can write two sentences without being interrupted. My ONE hour is sacred - be banished ye unholy fiends!)

"Sweet! I'm waking up at 6 every morning!" (Wrong. Lesson. Learned.) "Can we have sugar cereal too?" (Inch=mile, why don't I ever remember this?)

"You want to do workbooks until breakfast time? Ok!" The TV was on and they were quiet and out of my hair in two seconds. That's the thing that researchers and the parenting research councils and judge-y grandparents forget - the TV is a magic child opiate. Short of actually giving my child opiates, nothing works faster or better. (Not that I've ever given my kids drugs.)

Sighing with relief I turned away from their screen to focus on mine... only to read this on the NY Times site: The Hazards of the Couch . (Thanks to Reader Malindsa for the link!) Apparently I should have just given my kids drugs and sugared cereal. According to new research "the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of a screen (Charlotte's note: any screen, computer or TV, coughcough) can have such an overwhelming, seemingly irreparable impact on one’s health that physical activity doesn’t produce much benefit." That's right, Science just told you that daily exercise is not enough to counteract all your sitting-and-viewing time. Happy Friday!

Do researchers not understand that for many of us it is our job to sit for hours a day in front of a computer screen? Seriously I have 4 jobs - not exaggerating - and every single one of them uses a computer. But I exercise (like crazy!) 6 days a week! Surely this helps?
"[the study of 4,512 middle-aged men] found that those who said they spent two or more leisure hours a day sitting in front of a screen were at double the risk of a heart attack or other cardiac event compared with those who watched less. Those who spent four or more hours of recreational time in front of a screen were 50 percent more likely to die of any cause. It didn’t matter whether the men were physically active for several hours a week — exercise didn’t mitigate the risk associated with the high amount of sedentary screen time." (emphasis mine)
Lest you think this is just one study and Scottish men with their proclivities for rowdy football watching and adorable accents are not representative of the human population as a whole, this is just the latest in a string of studies looking at children, women, overweight men, and recovering heart patients among others to show similar results. The verdict is in: Your TV and computer are trying to kill you.

There is one tiny bright spot. According to the researchers it isn't the actual viewing that is sending us to health hell in a chocolate gift basket, it's the sitting. Well, thanks to the need to keep my computer out of the reach of little fingers, I do often using it standing up. (We won't talk about the neck, shoulder and back pain that gives me.) And I never ever watch TV. (Because I'm too busy watching my computer, duh.) Still.

What kills me is that daily exercise doesn't ameliorate the screen effect! Seriously? Not even a little bit? Don't worry I'm not going to quit exercising, I adore it way too much to give it up. (Huge THANK YOU to all of you who pointed out in my survey yesterday that I missed the best and most obvious reason to exercise: for the love of it !! I should not blog late at night.) But I at least like to pretend it's counteracting some of my bad habits. Not to mention the inauspicious start in life I'm giving my children by using the electronic babysitter. Not only am I giving them bad habits (like mommy like son!) but I'm also, apparently, giving them high blood pressure.

What am I to do? (Insert wailing and hair-tearing.) Seriously, I'm looking for help here. First, how do you mitigate your screen time? Use your computer standing up? Sitting on an exercise ball? Second, what should I do about my kids? Bite the bullet and cut out all TV time and just deal with the fact that I birthed them and so if they're loud and annoying I have no one to blame but myself? Is there such a thing as moderation in screen time? (The researchers suggested less than 30 minutes a day. Uh huh. That's not even one PBS Kids show. I could answer four e-mails... out of the 100+ I get every day.)

Helllpppp meeee!

In other news: Andrew of the eponymous Andrew's Blog wrote a wonderful review of my book ! My fave part: "Charlotte is a very talented writer, who manages to make the reader feel included, and I found the book very easy to read and very entertaining. There were many laugh-out-loud moments (why is people falling off treadmills so funny?)." Oh Andrew, people falling down is ALWAYS funny. So are farts. And people falling down while farting! He also tells my non-US readers how to get a cheap copy of the book. Thank you so much Andrew!!

Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book for more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!
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