Sunday, June 7, 2009


Of all the causes cited for diabetes epidemic, the one that stands out is TV watching! Is there any substance in such an argument? Diabetes was a disease afflicting mankind even before the advent of television and other electronic entertainment technologies and many will consider such a view as preposterous. While stress and emotional disturbances encountered in actual life situation can have an influence on the onset of diseases like diabetes, BP and CVD, dispassionate watching of a TV program, even if it is emotionally affecting, may not have any lasting impact on health. Watching from close quarters is known to have adverse effect on eyes because of the radiation emitted from the TV. Then how come some believe TV has an influence on developing disorders of different types amongst the viewers?

With massive expansion of television net works and satellite TV net works beaming non-stop programs, 24x7 through out the year, there is bound to be a tendency to hook on to TV viewing for longer periods, especially by house wives, who do not go for work. Even amongst gents, depending on the work load at the work place, TV viewing can take considerable time in a day. On an average man spends about 8 hours in sleep while remaining time of 16 hours is spent on activities like work, travel and watching TV, all sitting comfortably. On week ends the proportion of time devoted to TV can increase dramatically while modern kitchens give lot of spare time to house wives for watching their favorite programs on TV. In Western countries over eating because of TV is rampant adding unwanted calories and undesirable fats to the daily foods. TV is also accused of creating the 'compulsive' eating habits when one consumes food without the need to satisfy hunger. Less and less physical activity and more and more eating activity can be very devastating on human health.

The startling finding by a study group in Australia that for almost 23 hours in a day people are in resting posture while remaining in upright position only for one hour, raises many disturbing questions regarding the life style brought about by affluence across the world! Probably blaming TV alone for this effect on the society may not be justifiable. Even if it is partially true, simple adjustments in TV watching can bring about dramatic improvements for the well being of the viewers . Since in many programs more than 50% of the time is taken up by commercial advertisements, one is advised to get up and walk a little bit before resuming the sitting posture for viewing the program. Of course the promoters who sponsor the ads may not like the idea! Similarly, not using the remote control device and instead, getting up to change channels can give some respite from ill effects of continued sitting for hours together in front of the idiot box. It is believed that longer one sits, higher can be the risk for developing disorders like diabetes, BP and CVD and frequent getting up and short walk can preempt such risks to a great extent.

New home designs even incorporate a unique feature where house wives can continue to do their kitchen chores while watching programs on TV and such innovations can bring about dramatic improvements in health status of women who are avid TV watchers with about a dozen regular serial shows in their 'must see list'. Many modern homes combine living room, dining and kitchen facilities in such a way one can have the flexibility to mix entertainment with daily chores like food preparation and consumption without disruption. Of course puritans will always frown upon the idea of open cooking area since food preparations can generate strong smells but smell is an integral part of the appetite stimulating mechanism and such designs can contribute to more desirable eating environment.

Avoiding sitting for long time is advocated by medical experts also for improving blood circulation and air travelers on long haul routes are even advised to move their limbs and body often to prevent development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can be fatal in some cases. Probably watching TV for long time in sitting or inclined positions, especially in house holds where servants shoulder the major responsibility of physical work, DVT may not be a danger but long term risks of diabetes, CVD and BP could be real unless TV viewing is regularly interrupted by frequent moving around in the house. Frequent power failures, scheduled or unscheduled, in many parts of the country was indirectly helping the situation as many cable net works do not provide service during such occasions though lately advent of Direct TV through dish antennae and wide scale use of inverters ensure 24 hour viewing of programs with practically no disruption. Voluntary restraint and exercising discretion while viewing the programs can be the best course to avoid diseases than cripple life by uncontrolled TV watching, accompanied by frequent snacking. Calling the TV set as an idiot box may not be fair because it is the people who watch them deserve the epithet more appropriately!


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