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A recent article in the LA Times carried a headline that said, in effect, that watching television makes you gain weight.
No news there. After all, unless you’re doing sprints across the living room while watching your favorite show, you’re not burning calories.
But it isn’t television itself that’s the problem (although we often add insult to injury by snacking while we watch—more on that later). Simply sitting for long periods—whether it’s in front of the big screen or the little one—leads to biochemical changes in the way the body stores fat and sugar that negatively impact health.
We humans were designed to have an active lifestyle. We share our genetics with our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors who spent many hours a day searching for food. We’re meant to be active all day long, and our biology is adapted to a high level of physical activity. So, when our behavior (sitting all day) goes counter to the way we were designed (engaging in lots of physical activity), our biology works against us.
If you’re watching the big screen, don’t couple the (in)activity with snacks. If you can, set up your TV at home so you can stretch, walk on the treadmill or lift weights while you watch. If you spend the day in front of the computer, deliver messages to nearby colleagues in person rather than by phone or e-mail. You can also try sitting on a stability ball or walking on a treadmill at a slow pace while you work.