Watching ONE hour of TV as bad for health as smoking a cigarette

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Consultant orthopaedic and spinal surgeon George Ampat is set to highlight how dangerous sedentary behaviour can be to aspects of health, including heart and joint health, blood pressure and cognition. His research also shows more than 60 percent of back surgery could be avoided with exercise and a more active lifestyle.

Mr Ampat came to his conclusions after reviewing a range of studies.

The British Society of Lifestyle Medi­­cine director, also a Liverpool University honorary lecturer, will present his research to GPs, surgeons and other medics at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital next month. 

His findings follow a surge in TV watching and streaming due to lockdowns.

In its recent report, broadcast watchdog Ofcom found families typically spent nearly six hours a day bingeing channels, streaming services and online content last year. 

Screen time rose to a daily average of five hours and 40 minutes, up 50 minutes on the previous year.

Mr Ampat will argue that prolonged inactivity, and in ­particular, “passive television watching” is harmful to both brain and body.

He said: “We were designed as hunter-gatherers. Sitting for prolonged periods means we are not burning the food we eat ‑ and this causes damage.

“It is even worse when we see violent or dramatic scenes, which make up much TV. 

“Such scenes lead to the secretion of fight-or-flight stress hormones which causes a glucose sugar spike which, in turn, causes the inflammation that is linked to chronic and potentially deadly problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure.”

His analysis ‑ set out in a forthcoming book called Free From Pain ‑ shows that prolonged daily TV viewing over a lifetime reduces lifespan by up to four years for men and more than three years for women.

And sitting for one hour has the equivalent health burden of losing 11 minutes of life ‑ the same as smoking one cigarette.

Sedentary behaviour also leads to loss of muscle mass, causing increased wear on joints.

Mr Ampat said: “There are almost 700,000 people on the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery. Many are suffering significant pain and disability.

“People are fixated on surgery and painkillers. We need to change the focus and put in lifestyle measures.”

Mr Ampat will also highlight research showing how prolonged TV viewing could increase the risk of dementia in the elderly.

One study compared the ­cognitive function of lifetime viewers versus non-viewers among over-65s.

Adjusting for lifestyle factors, the research found that non TV viewers suffered significantly less dementia.

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