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Television and Women’s Health
For this month’s thought bullets, I wanted to share some of the highlights
of a recent Harvard study that reviewed the impact of television watching on
women’s health. The study included 50,277 women who participated in the Nurses
Health Study, and tracked the women from 1992 until 1998.
- Researchers found that each two-hour-per-day increment of TV watching was
associated with a 23% increase in obesity and a 14% increase in the risk of
- The study is one of the first to show a relationship between sedentary
behaviors such as television watching and health hazards in adults. Several
studies have linked television watching to obesity in children.
- Each hour per day of brisk walking (three miles per hour) was associated
with a 24% reduction in obesity and a 34% reduction in diabetes.
- Two hours per day of standing or walking was associated with a 9%
reduction in obesity and a 12% reduction in diabetes.
- Dr. Frank Hu, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the
Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study, believes the
summary message from the research is simple: "When you cut back on
sedentary behavior, you cut back on developing type 2 diabetes and obesity
which lead to serious health risks. Incorporating more physical activity
shows the greatest protection against obesity and diabetes; brisk walking,
even doing chores around the yard and house, can help."
- The average adult male in the U.S. watches approximately 29 hours of TV
per week and the average adult female watches approximately 34 hours. TV
watching results in a lower metabolic rate when compared to other sedentary
activities such as sewing, playing board games, reading, and driving a car.
- Researchers suggest that public health campaigns should focus both on
increasing physical activity and decreasing television watching time to
reduce risk of obesity and diabetes. Dr. Hu believes Americans must be
educated about the risks of watching too much television. Summary findings
from this study suggest women should watch less than 10 hours of television
a week and go on daily brisk walks for 30 minutes or more.
Eisner R. To stay slim, stop watching TV. MSNBC, April 8, 2003.
Hu FB, Li T, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Manson JE. Television watching and other
sedentary behaviors in relation to risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus
in women. JAMA 2003; 289: 1785-1791.
Women who reduce sedentary behaviors significantly reduce risk for type 2
diabetes and obesity. Medical News Service (news release of Harvard School of
Public Health), April 8, 2003.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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