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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Exercise


Turn off TV, turn on a healthier lifestyle

James E. Meyer, Nutrition Specialist, Ralls County, University of Missouri Extension


Healthcare costs in this country continue to rise. While federal and state governments struggle to find solutions, we as consumers are faced with an ever-bigger part of our paycheck going to pay for healthcare insurance. So, what can we as individuals do to help hold down healthcare costs and improve our own health? The answer is as simple as turning off your television and getting up and being physically active.

Already, more than one in four adults in the U.S. are obese. With its accompanying health risks, obesity causes an estimated 300,000 premature deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity is now the number two preventable cause of death in the United States, behind smoking.

Turning off the TV is a great way to improve the health of you and your family. There are two keys to being healthy – physical activity and eating a variety of foods in moderation. Watching less TV can help you with both of these.

Don’t have time to be physically active? You are not alone. As a society, we have created a lifestyle that has removed much of the physical activity from our daily lives. According to the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, 60 percent of Americans do not get enough physical activity to stay healthy and 25 percent engage in no physical activity whatsoever.

Yet many of us have more time than we think. Children in the U.S. average almost three hours of television each day, and adults average over four hours. Cutting back on television is a great way to find time to play outside, take a walk or pick up a new sport. According to Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the CDC, “The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV.” A body in front of the tube is a body at rest.

Not only does watching TV keep you inactive, it also encourages an unhealthy diet. Research shows that the more TV children watch, the more likely they are to snack between meals, consume foods advertised on TV, and attempt to influence their parent’s food purchases. Consequently, the more TV children watch, the more likely they are to be overweight.

Take action to improve your health and the health of your family. Here are some TV-turnoff tips:

  • Keep the TV off during mealtimes.
  • Engage in physical activity as a family.
  • Move your TV to a less prominent location.
  • Designate certain days of the week as TV-free days.
  • Remove the TV set from your child’s bedroom.
  • Hide the remote.
  • Don’t worry if children say they are bored. Boredom passes and often leads to creativity.

Because children are influenced by what parents do, it is important that whatever effort you make to be more physically active or watch less TV is done as a family. In this supporting context, turning off the TV becomes a family effort, a way to bond and spend time together.

For more information about health and nutrition, contact your local University of Missouri Extension office.



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Last update: Monday, September 20, 2010