Older people who watched more than five hours of TV per day and reported three or fewer hours per week of total physical activity had more than a three-fold higher risk of being unable to walk or having difficulty walking at the end of a study that ran for nearly a decade.
[Photo: Dr. Loretta DiPietro]
The new study, which assessed all types of sedentary behavior, as well as light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, observed that prolonged sitting and TV watching was particularly harmful–especially when combined with low levels of total physical activity.
“TV viewing is a very potent risk factor for disability in older age,” says lead author of the study Dr. Loretta DiPietro, chair of the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University’s (GW) Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH). “Sitting and watching TV for long periods (especially in the evening) has got to be one of the most dangerous things that older people can do because they are much more susceptible to the damages of physical inactivity.”
DiPietro and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) diet and health study, which kept track of men and women age 50 to 71 from six states and two metropolitan areas. All of the participants were healthy at the study’s start in 1995 – 1996. The researchers recorded how much the participants watched TV, exercised or did gardening, housework or other physical activity at the beginning of the investigation, and then followed participants for about 10 years.
At the end of the study, nearly 30 percent of the previously healthy participants reported a mobility disability–having difficulty walking or being unable to walk at all.