Facts with Hope
FACT: Every hour spent watching TV may shorten the viewer’s life by 21.8 minutes. New research published earlier this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine tracked data from 100,000 Australian participants over the age of 25 and calculated the effects of television on life expectancy. They found that those who watch six hours a day “can expect to live 4.8 years less than a person who does not watch TV” and concluded that watching too much TV is as dangerous as smoking or being overweight.
HOPE: You can extend your life expectancy by the push of a button—the TV remote button, that is. Do the math (22 minutes/day multiplied by the number of hours of TV watched per week), then consider alternative forms of relaxation and entertainment that reduce sedentary time and introduce more physical activity to your family’s daily life.
FACT: Exercising at school boosts test scores. Researchers led students in grades 1 and 2 in Charleston, SC through movement skills (i.e. hopping, treadmill) while learning basic academic skills like geography. They found that the percentage of students who reached their goal on standardized tests increased from 55% to 68.5%, compared with students who were not participating in the program.
HOPE: While exercising at school or while learning might improve kids’ test scores, this study also adds to growing evidence that exercise is good for the mind as well as the body. What can you can think about, solve or learn while you are exercising today?
FACT: Bicycling helps to control weight. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that among women who did not originally bicycle in 1989 but bicycled in 2005, even a small increase in bicycling time – as little as 5 minutes each day – helped to control weight. Among the walkers who had increased their daily activity by an average of 30 min/day over the years, only those who walked briskly (at least 3 mph) were able to control their weight. Walking slowly (slower than 3 mph) had no effect.
HOPE: If you have a lot of weight to lose and are unable to walk briskly, consider bicycling as an exercise option. For premenopausal women of any weight, riding a bicycle was effective in helping to maintain weight, and overweight and obese women appeared to benefit the most. The researchers found that "small daily increments in bicycling helped women control their weight.”
FACT: The aging brain experiences biologic changes that impact memory, reasoning, ability to learn new material, and ability to perform complex tasks. In addition, dementia (a lost of mental ability severe enough to interfere with normal activities of daily living) affects 11% of Americans older than 65 years.
HOPE: Physical activity may be protective against cognitive impairment. Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that those older adults who were the most physically active had a 90 percent lower risk of developing significant cognitive decline, compared with those who had the least physical activity. Even if you start late in life, physical activity can help preserve your mental ability.