The couch potato lifestyle i.e. spending too much leisure time in front of a TV or computer screen, poses as grave a risk upon your health as does smoking or obesity. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, it appears that sedentary lifestyle can incur a dramatic increase in risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers.
The findings revealed that people who spend more than 4 hours a day on screen-based entertainment like watching TV, using the computer or playing video games are twice as likely to have a major cardiac event that involves hospitalization, death or both, compared to those who spend only 2 hours or less.
A second study published in the medical journal The Lancet claims that physical inactivity kills nearly 5 million people every year.
“Roughly three of every 10 individuals aged 15 years or older, about 1.5 billion people, do not reach present physical activity recommendations,” experts said in the report that identified the problem as a “pandemic.”
The report further revealed that even more worrying is the picture for adolescents, with four out of five 13- to 15-year-olds not moving enough.
The study described physical inactivity as failing to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week, 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week, or a combination of the two.
In addition, the researchers found that inactivity increases with age and is higher in women than in men.
“People who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen, primarily watching TV, are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart-related problems,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, MSc, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, United Kingdom. “Our analysis suggests that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event.”
The report said reducing inactivity by only 10% could eliminate more than half a million deaths every year.
Exercise is essential for the human body because it assures the proper function of bones, muscles, heart and other organs.
To address the issue of populations that are walking, running and cycling less and less because they spend more time in cars and in front of computers, The Lancet report went further to call for global efforts to promote physical exercise by improving pedestrian and cyclist safety on city roads, for example, more physical education at school or promoting access to free public exercise spaces.