No TV for me. Well, maybe a little.

Posted on 17. Dec, 2009 by in General, Health and Medicine, Rebecca Leung

Now that my first semester of journalism school is over and I have a month-long break approaching, everyone has been asking me, “What will you do with your time?”

My response has been two-fold: sleep and watch television (or movies on DVD). I even had developed a growing “must-watch” list: “Freaks and Geeks,” the HBO “John Adams” miniseries, season one of “The West Wing.” Add to that an even longer list of movies and documentaries I’ve held off from watching because of a demanding graduate school schedule, and my month off was pretty much booked.

That is, until I read a health article in The New York Times yesterday that made me reconsider my scheduled laziness.

In Tara Parker-Pope’s “Well” column, Pope discusses a recent study on television-watching that includes some surprising results, as well as a heavy dose of common sense.

University of Vermont researchers monitored 36 participants’ activities, especially watching television, for six weeks. For the first three weeks, participants, who were overweight or obese, lived their lives as they normally would. The average amount of time they spent watching television per day was five hours.

For the last three weeks of the study, the test group could only watch half the amount of TV they normally did.

The surprising results: the test group’s calorie consumption and sleep habits did not change. What was not so surprising: the participants that watched 50% less TV were more active! So even though they didn’t eat less, they moved more, and, on average, burned 120 more calories per day.

Since the TVs were off, study subjects exercised more, did more household chores, played board games, read books, walked their dogs. In short, they were more productive and more active, even if they didn’t do much strenuous exercise.

So that leaves me with some choices to make. Choice A: I can watch all the TV on my list, thus doubling (probably tripling) the amount of TV I typically watch. I’ll gain more calories per day and be less active. I won’t do all the things on my “productive” to-do list: pitch stories, work out, write, blog, cook.

Or there’s choice B: keep the boob tube off as much as possible, and, in turn, be more active and perhaps even have my life in order before the next semester begins.

The winner: compromise. I’ll limit the TV to-do list to “Freaks and Geeks” and some documentaries, and I’ll pump up the “real” to-do list so that I can start the next semester a little more organized than the way I’m ending this one.

In the end, I’ll be more prepared for another challenging semester. And I’ll feel better about myself. But there’s still a small part of me that’s kicking myself a little for reading the news. (It really did want to watch “The West Wing.”)

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