You’ve seen them. People glued to the TV, it’s always on. During the day, during dinnertime, even at night while they’re sleeping. This has been a growing problem in our country. The increasingly high rate of Americans who lead sedentary lifestyles relying on one source of entertainment: television. Americans spend more time in front of the television than any other country in the world. The problem here is not TV, it’s the amount of time spent in front of it.

Now I’m not saying I don’t have a favorite TV show, of course I do. Some of my favorites are Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Real Housewives of New York City. But my life does not revolve around what’s on the boob tube for that day. I don’t follow show schedules, I don’t have any quotes memorized. I don’t know which episode aired last night or what season it is. My entertainment is the outdoors, the world around me. Nature will always have more entertainment to offer than anything on the television screen.

Back in the 1950’s television was a congregational place for the family. It was normal to gather around, switch it on, put a few laughs in during Leave it to Beaver, then hurry on to bed. But aside from television’s ability to stand as a one-man entertaining machine, it also poses many risks with regard to a healthy lifestyle.

1.) Children

Children are amazing creatures. From the time they’re born, as each month passes by, you begin to see attributes and mannerisms, habits, likes and dislikes; their road to development. This paves the way for talents and hobbies, the use of leisure time. Of course, any child needs to have something to do, and occupy those busy hands. Especially boys, they’re always moving around.

The problem is too many parents use the TV as a babysitter. It’s easier to sit your child down in front of the TV than to take him out and interact with him. I’ve seen it too many times. Laziness. It could be a beautiful day outside, and the child stays indoors all day, vegetating in front of the boob tube for hours on end. Although I don’t have any children of my own, for my twenty-eight years I can see the problem with this scenario. A child needs room to grow, room to express themselves. A child has energy, they have to release it somehow (not to mention this will make them sleep better at night). By constantly subjecting the child to endless hours of TV, the parent isn’t doing anything to stimulate the child. The child sits there in a trance, eyes glazed over. He’s not working with his hands, he’s not using his brain to think, he’s not expressing himself creatively, and worst of all, he’s not getting any exercise. Couple this with junk food, and you’ve got your child on the fast track to obesity.

Consider what your child is watching. Is it something educational, that will make him use his developing brain? Programs like Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer are great because they reach out to the child asking for help solving a puzzle, finding a location on a map, identifying objects and colors, and the like. But even these programs should be limited to about a few hours each day. You don’t want a child to rely on the television as their sole source of entertainment.

I think it’s important as a parent to teach your children how to make your own forms of entertainment. Especially in the early stages, when their young minds are so impressionable. Let them play with building blocks, let them paint and draw, challenge them to a board game, let them run around all day outside so they can smell the fresh air. Let them gain an appreciation for nature, for animals, opening their eyes to the beauty in the world around them.

2.) Relationships

I know a few couples whose idea of spending time together is in front of the boob tube. There’s nothing wrong with that every now and again, but when it gets to be routine there’s a problem. Because I believe in learning about your mate, communicating, discovering new challenges and experiences together. How can one do that with a television constantly blaring in the background? One couple, who we will refer to as J. and B., are a prime example of the aforementioned. In their early 20’s, they’re young, got their whole lives ahead of them. But they don’t choose to live life. Sometimes I’d stop by for a visit, see what’s new with them. J. and B. would be sitting in their usual position most days- on the sofa, TV front and center. There were times I’d invite B. to go on a walk with me and she’d decline, saying she’s tired. It could be beautiful outside and the girl would rather waste away in front of the boob tube for the day. I think the only place J. and B. ever went out together was the local beach side restaurant not even a mile from their home. I’ve never seen the two take a walk on the beach together, go to the park together, go clubbing together, take a day trip together, go shopping together, nothing. The most I’ve ever seen them do is sit lifelessly engaged in front of the television. Sometimes I wondered what they would do together if they didn’t have a TV. Life would be over as they knew it. They would be completely blindsided as to what to do for entertainment! I’ve never seen a couple so sedentary and okay with it, in my life. At times I felt like yelling out to them, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered! A world outside of your televised one! But, to each their own as they say. I try to understand that maybe that’s what makes them happy. Watching a good show, following the developments in each season. But, I couldn’t help but notice what an unhealthy lifestyle they were both leading. Day to day slothing in front of the TV and ingesting salty, fatty foods. That’s a recipe to make you the next obese American statistic. And who wants to add to that anyway?

3.) Overall health

It’s a universal truth that people who lead sedentary lifestyles are setting themselves up for a ¬†plethora of health risks. Among these, are:

  1. Muscle atrophy- from not exercising the muscles.
  2. Weak cardiovascular- neglecting to exercise the heart leads to weakened arterial passages and slow blood flow, leading to fatigue and lethargy.
  3. Depression- exercise releases those handy endorphins, the feel good chemicals in the brain. Sitting around all day, the brain is understimulated and restless.
  4. Obesity- especially in America, too much leisure time is spent in front of the TV and not indulging in recreational activities.

Now I’m no nutritionist or a doctor, but it’s common sense that exercise and a healthy diet go hand in hand. Myself, I consume a predominantly low-carb diet, full of veggies, salad, beef and chicken. I factor in some whole wheat carbohydrate maybe three times a month. Soda? I gave that up years ago. Not only for its role in tooth decay but also the astronomical amount of sugar and calories. The best thing you could drink is water. And milk. I love milk. Exercise? I keep with a cardio regimen of four miles three to four times a week on the treadmill. I do an average speed of 4.5 mph, in an effort to get my heart rate up, most importantly. I don’t workout just to claim thinness. I workout to reap the mutliple health benefits. Not only am I lowering my risk to developing life threatening diseases, I’m also working my mind, defragmenting the day, letting go of whatever happened and looking forward to tomorrow.

If more Americans adopted a healthier lifestyle containing more fresh foods and less processed, more recreational activity and less TV, we would have an overall healthier country and wouldn’t be viewed by the rest of the world as couch potatoes (sorry, sad but true). Hopefully with the rise of more Americans getting into the gym and watching what they eat, we can turn this statistic around, and also surprise ourselves.