THE BLOG

TV: Killing Us Softly?

07/16/2014 09:03 pm ET | Updated Sep 15, 2014
Images by Fabio via Getty Images

Have you been thinking there's really nothing good on TV these days? Nothing worth watching anymore? Then why are you still sitting there, hand on remote?

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What if the time you spend watching that stuff that isn't too great was costing you big time? I'm not talking about the cost of cable TV. I'm talking about cost in terms of years of life: TV causing you to meet an earlier demise.

That's exactly what new research suggests. And it's a great reason to set limits on how much screen time your kids get this summer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of total screen time for kids above the age of 2. At ages younger than that, they recommend no screen time at all. Once we've aged out of the pediatrics system? Apparently, these guidelines may still serve us well. A recent study issued a timely reminder that how we spend our leisure time matters.

In fact, we reported on it on our daily HealthDay TV feature.

So TV is bad for us -- but what to do when being "bad" can feel oh-so-good (and change can seem oh-so-rough). Here are some tips on how to get yourself and your kids up off the couch and doing something else that will pay better dividends:

1. Banish cable. Remember when all we had was an antenna and five or so channels, if we were lucky? Some families I know are getting right back to these basics. You'd be surprised what else you can find to do when 100+ channels aren't readily available. Make it a game night and get moving with a classic like Twister or charades.

2. Take up a new sport. Other recent research tells us that one bonus of engaging in physical activity that's fun may mean less overeating afterwards. Tennis, anyone? Or walking the dog as a family. Or consider meeting friends for a little bowling minus the beer and pizza.

3. Make dinner the evening highlight. Swap TV-watching hours for food shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up a well-planned, healthy and fun dinner with your loved ones. It could be a full four-hour event! Let's go European style, people.

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4. Go to bed earlier. Dinner and a movie? How about: dinner, a walk, and a nurturing bedtime routine. How about a nice hot bath? Or reading a book with your kids or by yourself. A glass of wine on the porch with your pet. Another perk: Going to bed earlier means less late-night snacking, much of which can be triggered by tempting TV commercials. Who needs that?

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5. CAUTION -- EXTREME MEASURES. And finally, if you are ready to go really hardcore, get rid of your televisions altogether.

If these tips don't appeal to you, or you try them and they still don't work, it may be time for a back-to-nature boot camp. Send me a line and let me know if we need to schedule -- my kids will probably need to go too.