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Not All Screen Time Is Equal!
There is plenty of evidence out there that sitting, watching TV as a regular pastime is one of the least healthy things you can do. Tempting as it is to simply veg out at the end of a busy day, several studies have shown that as pass-times go, watching television is bad for us.
Many of the claims are well known – men watching more than 20 hours of TV a week show a 44% reduction in their sperm count, three hours per day of passive viewing can shorten life by as much as 13%, watching to close to bedtime can impact the quality and quantity of sleep that ensues, with negative health implications in terms of both mental and physical well-being, and the list goes on…
Since it seems we are inextricably linked to screens of one form or another it makes sense not to reject the whole idea of screen-time per se, but to use it in a different way. For example, anyone with an internet connection can enjoy mentally challenging games, socialise or even have a flutter at an online bookmakers thus getting the same physical ease of watching TV whilst also experiencing mental, emotional and physical stimulation.
If this is executed as a matter of skill – as in poker or some form of sports betting – then intellectual as well as emotional triggers are fired, meaning that an aspect of so-called, brain-training can be combined with the active stimulation of the emotional receptors – often described in terms of the brain chemical serotonin.
Active screen time vs passive screen time
The wholly passive nature of TV viewing has been shown to be deleterious in terms of the way it slows the body’s metabolism to a lower rate than what we could call conventional relaxation. The result is a faster build-up of bodily fat, and again, the derived medical effects of that are well known. In contrast, an interactive engagement with some form of digital device – which may or may not enable person to person interaction – does not entail this damaging drop in metabolic activity.
None of this is meant to detract from the fundamental necessity of taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. What we are talking about is that aspect of leisure time that remains to be accounted for once exercise and other activities have been completed. Mental challenges, whether in the form of a flutter as introduced here, or as part of a more substantial programme of activity – for example a creative undertaking – are a means to put the television in its place.
The average North American is said to watch some three hours of TV daily. That equates to a huge amount of time over the course of a lifetime and it is no surprise that its effects have been quite so studied. There is near unanimity amongst the medical professions that too much TV is bad for us. The good news, however, is that that is not the same the same thing as active screen time.
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