While research into how many hours we spend in front of the TV and how this affects our health are usually focussed on children, a new study has found that seniors are the ones most affected.
A study by The University of Queensland found that Australians aged 60 and over spend more time watching TV than other adults. On average they watch nearly four hours a day, about an hour longer than younger adults.
“Up until now, most research about sitting and watching TV has been focused on children, while older adults have potentially the most to gain from changing their behaviour,” lead researcher of the study Dr Paul Gardiner said.
The research, conducted at The University of Queensland’s school of population health, found that those seniors who watch extended amounts of TV are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study found that for every hour a person watches TV they increase their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of medical disorders that can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The other lifestyle factors linked to metabolic syndrome include a lack of regular exercise, poor nutrition, high alcohol consumption and smoking.
Previous studies have shown that while lack of exercise is harmful, sedentary behavior is even worse and has a unique physiological effect on the body.
Dr Gardiner said that even light activity such as folding washing while watching TV, can reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
"Reducing sedentary behavior may be a feasible and practical way for older adults to improve their health and may be particularly important for those whose health or physical functioning limits their participation in moderate-intensity physical activity," he said.
The study of almost 2,000 elderly Australians was one of the first to examine the effects of sedentary behavior and TV watching on older men and women. Following the study, an intervention program developed and run by Dr Gardiner, saw older people reduce their sitting time by an average of 30 minutes a day.
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