It’s been a long, stressful day and after dinner all you want to do is put your feet up and catch a laugh or two by watching a few of your favorite TV comedies. Enjoying a few laughs is great for reducing stress and elevating your mood, but it may not be so good for your overall health.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, in the time it takes you to catch up on the last two weeks of your TiVo’d episodes of “Modern Family” and “Family Guy”, you increase your risk of developing type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other more serious diseases. If the kids were already watching their favorite after-school programs that means the kids are also at risk of developing these same diseases but at a much earlier age, or becoming obese. Additionally, children who watch television for prolonged periods of time may suffer from poor sleep and memory performance and have greater difficulties with learning3.
So what are we to do on those days when we just need to veg-out or we just love our favorite TV shows a little too much? Here are 5 tips to help you reduce your television time and increase your activity time, thus reducing your chance of developing heart disease and diabetes–while still relieving stress and boosting your mood:
Because we love our television so much, we are loving the great outdoors much less. Since we’re replacing exercise-time with couch-time, we are not getting our recommended 60 minutes per day of physical activity needed to maintain or lose weight.
1. As soon as you get home, change out of your workday clothes and put on some clothes appropriate for exercising –not your favorite sweats or pajamas! You’ll feel more motivated to go for a walk or play outside with the kids if you lace up those sneakers rather than putting on your bunny slippers. Throwing a Frisbee for 20 minutes can burn up to 58 calories in 20 minutes.
2. If you absolutely cannot miss tonight’s episode of “Girls”, take care of your household chores instead of watching the show that precedes your must-see episode. You get your chores done and you burn a few extra calories doing it! Vacuuming for 10 minutes burns up to 31 calories and ironing for 20 minutes can burn up to 45 calories!
3. During any commercial breaks, get up and move! Commercial breaks are between 3-4 minutes and there are about 4 breaks during a normal 30 minute sitcom. If you jumped rope at a moderate pace for the duration of each commercial break, by the end of your show you could burn up to 145 calories!
4. Did you and your partner get a little, a-hem…excited by tonight’s episode of “True Blood”? 15 minutes of foreplay can burn up to 21 calories and taking it to the bedroom can burn up to 77 more calories in just 20 minutes.
Finally, who can’t watch television without reaching for some potato chips, ice cream or cookies? It’s easy to consume more way calories than normal when watching television because your brain is not focused on the chemical signals that tell you that you’ve had enough.
5. Try snacking on nuts instead of that go-to comfort food. Almonds contain magnesium which helps convert sugars to energy, walnuts contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which influences the brain’s serotonin levels increasing your mood, and Brazil nuts contain selenium, another natural mood booster2. A handful of nuts is about one serving and since you have to crack open shells, you slow down and your brain has a chance to tell you that you’ve had enough.
By reducing your time in front of the TV and increasing your time outside of the living room, you reduce your chance of developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and becoming obese. More so, children who watch less television will also improve their memory, sleep better and be more focused on learning at school. Mindful snacking will help you to know when you are satisfied and several small bursts of physical activity throughout the day can add up to the recommended amount of physical activity needed each day.
No healthy lifestyle change is successful without the support and encouragement of your family and friends. Make sure you involve your spouse, kids and friends with your physical activities and who knows, maybe they will decide that fun-time is healthier than couch-time, no matter how busy or stressful their day has been!
1. Journal of the American Medical Association, Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and All-cause Mortality. Grontved, Anders, and Hu, Frank, 2011; 305(23), 2448-2455.
2. http://www.naturalnews.com. Research shows that seeds and nuts are “brain foods” that can also stabilize your mood. Dani Veracity, August 07, 2006.
3. Pediatrics , Impact of Singular Excessive Computer Game and Television Exposure on Sleep Patterns and Memory Performance of School-aged Children. Dworak, Markus, Schierl, Thomas, Bruns, Thomas, Struder, Heiko Klaus. 2007; 120; 978.
About the author: Jennifer Beery is a full-time nutrition and dietetics student, wife, and part-time office administrative assistant who is passionate about health and wellness but also struggles with getting it all in each day.
Her blog, http://platespantriesandpinot.blogspot.com offers easy meal planning, smart shopping, safe food storage, and general healthy lifestyle tips for busy families like hers.