Health & Wellness

Too Much TV Linked With Cardiovascular Disease

Part of the problem is all that sitting—but that’s not the whole story


Photo: iStock/Blackregis.

A lack of exercise and sitting too long have been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and a shorter lifespan, but a new study suggests that what you do while sitting may make a difference.

After following the habits of more than 3,000 African Americans over almost 8.5 years, researchers from Columbia University found a 50% higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and premature death among those who spent the most time watching TV (four or more hours a day) than among those who watched less than two hours a day. Those who were required to spend long hours sitting at work, however, were not found to have any increased health risks.

There are reasons those who watch TV longer tend to have poorer health, and they may not be directly related to their decision to watch TV. “Participants who reported longer daily TV viewing were more likely to smoke, be heavy alcohol consumers, and have an unhealthy diet and poor levels of leisure-time,” authors said.

Those who sit for long hours at work usually get up every now and then, to get coffee, go to the copier, or maybe just pace so they can get a break from a challenging task. Those who watch TV are more likely to sit for a long time without moving. The longer sitting is uninterrupted, the worse it is for you.

If you like watching a lot of TV, don’t let the findings alarm you too much. Researchers also found those that who took part in moderate and vigorous exercise were able to offset the effects of sitting for long periods of time. Those who watched about four hours of TV a day but also exercised for at least 2.5 hours a week weren’t found to be at an increased risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, or a premature death.