Here’s a study the world was waiting for: Does watching television lead to obesity in children?
As part of the mankind’s stubborn desire to find someone or something else to blame for their own expanding waistlines, a study in London finds that children who watch more than two hours of television per night are at higher risk of becoming smokers or being fat, out of shape or having high cholesterol as adults.
Or does it?
The study followed young people at regular intervals until the age of 26. They found that among the 26 year olds, 17% of overweight, 15% of raised cholesterol, 17% of smoking and 15% of poor fitness could be attributed to watching television for more than two hours a day.
None of these percentages are particularly impressive. If any were in the 70-80% range, that might be considered compelling. But not one of them even hits the one-fifth mark.
Unfortunately, stabbing itself in the foot, the study then adds that “as in any observational study, they couldn’t prove TV watching caused health problems.”
Even more brilliant was this “finding:”
“Television viewing might be a marker for some unidentified determinant of adult health, and individuals who have a natural tendency to obesity and poor physical fitness might prefer to watch television than do other activities.”
So people who would rather watch “American Idol” might not be as fit as someone who might go play sports or exercise? Who would have thought…?
The report suggests that cigarette smoking might be picked up from television watching as well, since cigarette smoking is often depicted in television shows. Cigarette smoking is seen daily in real life as well, but that must not have occurred to anyone involved in this study.
One more problem with the report: it could not define a safe level of TV viewing because it couldn’t find enough people who watched no television to serve as a control group. While the report is quick to point out that those who watched an hour or less a day were the healthiest in the study, the evidence that two hours of television viewing is the sole contributor to obesity isn’t there.
I hope no one paid a lot of money for this study. I don’t know about anyone else, but I didn’t need a study to tell me that sitting on the couch watching television is less healthy than exercise. I can’t imagine that’s a surprise to anyone else, either.
Does anyone really need to blame the television for making them fat? I’ve yet to see a television that came equipped with a gun that holds viewers in front of the screen against their will when they’d rather be out training for a marathon, ordering them instead to sit glassy-eyed as they stare at the screen while eating bon-bons. If such a television exists, I must have missed it the last time I was in Best Buy.
If you’re unhappy with your size, turn the television off and try the treadmill. It may not be as entertaining, but the end result is often much better.