Today, watching television is not only something we do on our spare time, but it’s also a way to catch up on the day’s news – and now, thanks to various online streaming services and phone apps, TV is no longer something that can only be found in the comfort of your own home. It’s also with you on the go, meaning Canadians are actually watching more television than they used to.
As a young child, you probably remember your parents telling you not to sit too close to the TV out of fear it might ruin your eyesight – and while that still rings true today (as you eyes can become strained), there are a number of different ways in which your health can be impacted by too much television – including your mind and body.
While there are certainly ways in which watching television can be informative, there are also many ways that make it the complete opposite of that; and after conducting a nearly two and a half decade-long study in adults aged 25 and older, JAMA Psychiatry – a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association – was able to discover that those who watched more than 3 hours of television per day performed much worse on cognitive tests compared to those who spent less time watching television. Children can also have similar issues with cognitive abilities by spending too much time in front of the television, including decreased language development.
The mind isn’t the only thing too much television can have a negative impact on, however. It can also do the body serious harm, too. When we sit in front of a television, regardless of what we’re watching we tend to want to snack, and the snacks chosen aren’t always the healthiest – i.e. potato chips, chocolate, candy. If you do get a craving for something sweet while you’re watching television, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests fresh fruit (apple slices, strawberries, etc.) and/or low-fat, Greek yogurt. Along with unhealthy snacking, television can expand the waistline simply by sitting around for hours on end, and with that lack of physical activity you are much more likely to put on weight. When you combine unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and weight gain, you also put yourself at an increased risk of developing diabetes. Too much television can also impact sleep. If you’re familiar with the word “binge watching” then you’ll know that usually means staying awake for hours on end streaming your favourite show – and it’s easy to do this especially if you have a TV in your bedroom. This can lead to A) insomnia and other sleep disorders, and/or B) oversleeping. The first thing Dr. Ghahary recommends is moving the television to a different room so you won’t have the distraction. Secondly, he says getting a good night’s rest is crucial for your overall health, and recommends patients get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
Too much TV can also have an impact on your work and school performance, as well as personal relationships as it can be a somewhat isolating activity. The more television you watch, the more cut-off you are from the outside world. This can not only lead to relationships becoming strained, but can also turn into social anxiety, and even depression. So if you do insist on watching television, try to limit yourself and make sure your day is productive.
When it comes to watching television and your health, you don’t have to go and cut yourself off from it all together – just remember it’s much better (and healthier for you) when done in moderation.