Replacing TV watching with exercise could promote healthy aging

A hand holding a remote control, pointing it toward a TV

June 20, 2024 – People may be able to improve their chances of healthy aging if they substitute sedentary behaviors such as watching TV with physical activity, according to a study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, was featured in a June 11 CNN article.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 45,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who were aged 50 years or older and free of major chronic diseases in 1992. Using data from the following 20 years, the researchers measured the impact of sedentary behaviors on healthy aging, which was defined as living until at least 70 years old, not having any major chronic diseases, and not having any impairment in memory, physical function, or mental health. They found that each additional two hours of sitting to watch TV each day was associated with a 12% decrease in the odds of healthy aging. In contrast, adding two hours of light physical activity each day was associated with a 6% increase in the odds of healthy aging.

“Our take-home message is that replacing TV time with light physical activity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and sleep (for participants with inadequate sleep) is beneficial to healthy aging,” said senior author Molin Wang, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

Other Harvard Chan School co-authors of the study were Hongying Shi, Frank Hu, Tianyi Huang, Eva Schernhammer, Walter Willett, and Qi Sun.

Read the study: Sedentary Behaviors, Light-Intensity Physical Activity, and Healthy Aging

Read the CNN article: Why stop watching so much TV? It affects how you age, new study says

– Jay Lau

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