Retirement — 03 December 2011
Hey seniors: Extend your lives by walking and reducing TV watching

The quest for healthy longevity is commonly associated with good genes, avoidance of life-threatening conditions and luck. We also know that lifestyle options may extend our lives by eating right, exercising our minds and bodies, maintaining social connections and by not smoking or drinking to excess. New research has added an additional element to the mix, monitoring television viewing.

A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that excessive TV watching “can make you depressed, anxious, and altogether out of sorts. As hours of television increased, so did a person’s level of depression and anxiety.”

Mark Hamer, PhD, senior research fellow in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, found that, “People who watched more than two hours of television a day, even if they got the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day, were still more likely to feel depressed and anxious.”

John Newhagen, in Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, points out that observing disturbing news on television that includes graphic images of war, human suffering, trauma and disasters do evoke anger, fear and disgust in the viewers.

Medically, anger does damage to the heart. “You get high cortisol and high adrenaline levels and that is the cardiotoxic effect of anger expression,” says Jerry Kiffer, a heart-brain researcher at the Cleveland Clinic’s Psychological Testing Center. “It causes wear and tear on the heart and cardiovascular system.”

A 2010 research reported in Journal of the American Heart Association states, “Every hour of television watched per day may increase the risk of dying earlier from cardiovascular disease. Compared with people who watched less than two hours of television daily, those who watched more than four hours a day had a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 80 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease-related death.”

Nielson study found that, “The average American every month watches approximately 153 hours of TV at home.”

Clinical observations of seniors who watch television news for extended periods of time per day, indicate that they are more irritable, angry, excessively agitated and even combative with their family members. Some experience raging outbursts and even physical altercations with their loved ones.

It seems by the preponderance of evidence that sitting and watching television for long periods of time is a health and longevity hazard.

In unrelated research, Stephanie Studenski of the University of Pittsburgh reported encouraging data that is self-empowering for seniors who are ambulatory. She “found an association between gait speed and survival in older adults. Gait speeds of 3.3 feet/second or higher, consistently demonstrated survival that was longer than expected by age and sex alone.”

Seniors,

  • Honor your minds and bodies by limiting your television viewing to less than three hours a day.
  • Follow your physician’s recommended lifestyle habits that promote health.
  • Will yourself to walk daily and briskly for your greater physical and emotional wellbeing and longevity.

 

September 25, 2011

 

 

 

 

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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