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Time to Turn Off Those TV's!

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 How often do you come home from a hard day, only to plop on the couch and "relax" in front of the TV? If you find it hard to escape the sights and sounds of the tube, or if watching your favorite show turns into more wasted hours than you planned, you're not alone. Americans watch TV for an average of 4 hours every day; even when we're not watching, the television is on--for almost 8 hours a day in the average home. Have you ever realized how much TV has become a part of our lives? Here are some more startling facts, from the non-profit organization, TV-Turnoff Network

40% of Americans always or often watch TV while eating dinner.
  • Eating dinner or snacking in front of the TV is linked to overeating and dissatisfaction. When you're distracted, you're not mindful of the meal you are eating, causing you to eat more without realizing it or really enjoying your food. Turn off the TV (and other distractions like the computer or the phone), and you'll savor that portion-controlled meal.
50% of US households have 3 or more TVs.
  • When you have more TVs, chances are, more of your family members are watching- instead of spending quality time together, doing homework, and being active.
By age 65, the average American has seen 2 million TV commercials.
  • Many of the commercials we see show appetizing foods-fast food, junk food, soda, alcohol, sugary cereals, and candy. Think "out of sight, out of mind."
The average American youth spends about 900 hours per year in school, and over 1,000 hours per year watching TV.
  • While you can't place all the blame on TV, soaring rates of childhood obesity are a result of both poor nutrition and an inactive lifestyle. Limit the amount of time your kids (and yourself, leading by example) watch TV and encourage more physical activity like walking the dog, helping with yard work, playing sports, or other active hobbies.
  • In a 2008 Canadian study, researchers from the University of Toronto found that kids who watched TV while eating lunch consumed 228 extra calories than those who ate without the television on. Harvey Anderson of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (the organization that funded the study) believes that watching TV leads to mindless eating. By focusing on TV instead of a meal, kids (and adults) are less likely to notice feelings of fullness.
TV-Turnoff Week
Consider turning off that TV permanently--OK, well maybe for just a week. April 19 through April 25 is the official "TV-Turnoff Week," an exciting opportunity for adults and children to experience life without television. For seven days, people around the world will turn off their TVs and find something better to do. But no matter what  time of year it is now, there are plenty of reasons to cut down on your TV time.

Think it would impossible to turn off your TV for an entire week? Imagine how much more free time you would have if you didn't spend time watching TV! There are lots of fun (and healthy) things you could do with your newfound time. Here are some examples:
  • Get active! Think you don't have time to exercise? Here?s your opportunity!
  • Make it a family event! Take the kids out for a walk, ride bikes, learn a new sport, go canoeing, etc.
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Go to bed earlier and get your recommended 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Start that new hobby you've been wanting to try
  • Cook dinner for your family and enjoy it together at the table
  • Volunteer at your local church or community center
  • Start a vegetable garden or plant flowers
  • Take a class- drawing, woodworking, sewing- whatever interests you
  • Take a trip to the grocery store. Without the usual rush, take the time to compare labels, find new foods, and stock up on fresh fruits, veggies and healthy snacks.
  • Write a letter to someone you haven't seen in awhile
  • Spend more time with your pet! Go for a walk or play a game of Frisbee.
  • Prepare healthy bag lunches for the family.
The possibilities are endless! Do you think you could give it a try, just for one week? According to a follow-up survey, 80% of TV-Turnoff participants said they altered their viewing habits and now watch less TV. You'll be amazed how a little less TV can have a big impact on you and your family. 

For more information on TV-Turnoff Week, visit: www.tvturnoff.org

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Member Comments

  • Right . ???? ??????????????
  • TV is not the problem, self-discipline is. Exercise during commercials.
  • This is something I need to work on
  • I have given up TV for 2 weeks now, and I'm incredibly surprised at how much better life is. I used to come how from work, and sit in front of the TV. And, I didn't really enjoy what i was watching. I've had a great day today, without the TV, and I hope that I can keep it going. Today, actually felt like I was on a vacation some place, where I wouldn't have watched TV anyways.
  • What I REALLY hate? When people have the TV on and don't even watch it, but spend their time texting on their stupidphones instead!
  • I did not grow up with television. As an adult, I had a small one that I kept in a closet; I would roll it out for specific events (such as election coverage), but preferred to read books. Then I got married, and unfortunately adopted some of my husband's TV habits -- including eating meals in front of it. (I did at least manage to limit the household to ONE TV in the living room and another in his "man cave;" absolutely NO TV in the bedroom!) I have since given up TV except for my two guilty pleasures: The Walking Dead and its spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead. I don't miss it at all!
  • Yes, definitely decreasing screen time has made my life much better.
  • Some very good ideas! Thanks
  • Watch FAR less TV than before. Just want to keep moving and . . . not much on anyhow!
  • Have always been a TV watcher and I enjoy documentaries, PBS and dramas. Too much? Sometimes. I also use TV for background noise when I need to hyper focus. Probably won't do this challenge.
  • Unfortunatley we have made ourselves a depenant society. We teach our children this is how you live. I remember doing stuff when there was no devises. Now I have a large rear and miss the old days.
  • Too easy to zone out to.
  • I very seldom watch TV but I certainly waste an awful lot of time on social media - and I include Spark People in that category. Maybe we should unplug home computers and spend the time exercising instead of blogging and we'd all be healthier!
  • YMWONG22
    I have not switch on a TV for years. I'm on the internet more now. Reading articles and other stuff online.
  • Don't just be TV free. Unplug. It's only been 15 years since we started to plug in constantly and now FOMO dominates the scene. Leave social media, mobile apps (this is one too), and don't constantly check your phone ... it can be as paralyzing as the TV. It's nice to be connected when you need it but FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is epidemic.

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.