Watching TV is something virtually everyone does, but did you know that TV can actually be harmful to you? Television viewing can, for example, increase your risk of premature death, reduce your level of intelligence, completely obliterate your ability to concentrate and increase your risk of developing neurodegenerative brain disorders.
Researchers in Australia have concluded that watching television increases risk of death from heart disease, strokes and even cancer. Every hour spent watching television each day increases the risk of dying from heart disease by almost a fifth, say scientists. Studies found that people who sat in front of the box for more than four hours a day were 80% more likely to die for reasons linked to heart and artery disease.
“Even if someone has a healthy body weight, sitting for long periods of time still has an unhealthy influence on their blood sugar and blood fats,” said the study’s lead researcher, Prof David Dunstan, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Victoria, Australia.
While we know a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to our health, few studies have examined the effects of what watching too much TV can do to our brains. Research carried out over 25 years by California’s Institute for Research and Education has recently shown the dangers of television for our neurons, even in those who exercise regularly.
The participants were divided into two groups according to their television habits: frequent viewers (more than 3 hours of television per day) and moderate viewers (less than 3 hours per day). Their cognitive function was evaluated using the DSST (Digit Symbol Substitution Test), Stroop test, and RAVLT (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test).
The results showed that the most frequent viewers over the 25 years (10.9%) were more likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests. Secondly, the participants with low physical activity (16.3%) performed poorly on the DSST. Thirdly, when compared to moderate viewers engaging in regular physical activity, frequent viewers who exercised little were nearly twice as likely to perform poorly on cognitive tests. Too much television and a lack of physical activity represent independent factors linked to a decline in cognitive brain performance.
And the worst news: Exercise can’t compensate for the harmful effects of too many hours spent watching television. If you’re athletic, you are undoubtedly maintaining your cognitive abilities better than sedentary individuals, but if you also watch television for more than three hours per day, it is likely to have negative consequences on your intellectual activity.
Television reduces your ability to think critically. When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left side of your brain (responsible for logical thought and critical analysis) to the right side. This is significant because the right side of the brain tends not to analyze incoming information. Instead, it uses an emotional response which results in little or no analysis of the information. In other words, this is like someone telling you something and you believing what they say without doing your own research.
Your brain is actually more active when you are sleeping than when you are watching television! Since the health of your brain is largely determined by how much you actively use it, watching too much television can have a detrimental effect on the health of your brain. One of the reasons that brain activity is so low when watching TV is because you really don’t have to do anything. When you read, for example, you have to mentally create images of what you are reading. This requires significant brainpower to do so.
So, the saying ‘TV rots you brain’ has more truth to it than you might imagine. Excessive television viewing has also been linked to degenerative brain disorders later in life such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.