Study Unveils Key to Healthy Aging: Reduce TV Time and Stay Active

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Binge-watching your favorite shows on the couch may seem like the ultimate way to unwind, but it’s not ideal for healthy aging. Researchers now recommend reducing TV time and dedicating those hours to some form of physical activity to improve your chances of aging healthily.

study led by Dr. Molin Wang from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that swapping just one hour of daily TV watching for light physical activity at home can improve the odds of reaching a healthy age of 70 or beyond by 8%. Engaging in moderately vigorous physical activities, such as a workout, during that hour can boost those odds by 28%. Additionally, for individuals who don’t get enough sleep at night, using TV time for extra sleep also promotes healthy aging.

The research team evaluated data from more than 45,000 people who are part of the Nurses’ Health Study. The participants were at least age 50 and did not have any chronic diseases when they began the study in 1992. The researchers tracked their lifestyle habits for 20 years, including time spent sitting at work and home, watching television, and hours spent standing or walking at home. This data was then compared to information on their health and aging over time.

The study considered an individual to have aged healthily if they reach the age of 70 or beyond without major chronic diseases and impaired memory, and if they maintain overall good physical and mental health.

According to the study results published in the journal Jama Network, “longer television watching time decreased odds of healthy aging, whereas light physical activity (LPA) and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) increased odds of healthy aging and replacing sitting watching television with LPA or MVPA, or with sleep in those who slept 7 hours per day or less, was associated with increased odds of healthy aging, providing evidence for rearranging 24-hour behavior to promote overall health.”

Experts find TV watching to be a particularly unhealthy pursuit not just because there is no movement involved but brings along a series of other unhealthy habits.

“When people sit in front of the TV, it usually brings all these other co-morbid activities, like eating junk food, TV dinners, failing to connect with others, and it even can interrupt sleep,” Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, told CNN.

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