We love Downton Abbey as much as the next red-blooded television owner, but recent news has made us a bit squeamish about plopping down in front of the tube. Sure, there are some benefits to TV viewing: for example, a pair of studies published last September found that watching a rerun of a favorite show could help people muster up willpower and emotional energy.
But on balance, the news isn't good: TV viewing a la American -- meaning 2.5 to three hours per day, according to the latest numbers -- increases risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, attention problems and weight gain in children and, well, death.
And just this week, we learned more sobering news: Watching 20 hours of television per week was associated with a 44 percent reduction in sperm. That got us thinking about all the ways that television viewing can contribute to other health concerns -- here are seven reasons to power down and get off the couch:
A Harvard study released on Feb. 4 in BMJ found that men who watch 20 or more hours of television (within the national average for men, <a href="http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/the-old-and-uneducated-watch-the-most-tv/">per the 2011 American Time Use Survey</a>) had a 44 percent reduction in sperm. But not to worry: turning off the tube and getting active could help. In the course of the same study, researchers found that <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204184531.htm">men who work out at least 15 hours per week</a> have 73 percent higher sperm counts.
Enjoy A Happier Marriage
Love the soaps? It could affect your marriage. The more you believe in the romantic relationships you see on TV, the less likely you are to be happy with your own, according to a <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120918121322.htm">2012 study in the journal Mass Communication and Society</a>.
Power down, cheat death? Watching TV doesn't just affect your overall health in the short term -- it can actually have <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21673296">an impact on how long you live</a>. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that for every additional three hours of daily television watched, the risk of dying of any cause increased by an average 13 percent.
Shutting off the TV should happen well before bedtime. In a study of more than 20,000 American adults, researchers found that <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/5483296/TV-before-bed-causes-chronic-health-problems-study-claims.html">nearly 50 percent watched TV</a> within the two hours before bed. And, as we know, <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/aaos-twb060209.php">TV before bed can reduce our overall hours of sleep</a> which can, in turn, contribute to increased risk of everything from depression to cancer.
Maintain Healthy Weight In Children
Limiting TV time is an effective way to <a href="http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=123486&CultureCode=en">help children lose weight</a>, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Have A Better Heart
In the same JAMA study that found an association between TV watching and death, researchers discovered that TV hours could also have <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/06/14/tv.watching.unhealthy/index.html">a damaging effect on heart health</a>: for every two additional hours a person was glued to the screen, their risk of heart disease increased by 15 percent. Meanwhile risk of diabetes increased by 25 percent for the same time period.
Help Kids Keep Healthy Diets
A 2012 study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that children who <a href="http://www.newswise.com/articles/study-examines-associations-between-tv-viewing-eating-by-school-children">watched TV after school were more likely to consume candy and sugary drinks</a> on a daily basis and <em>less</em> likely to eat fruits and veggies.