Watch TV, Kids, and Get Fat!

Shocking Scientific Finding: Kids who watch a lot of TV get fatter!

I’m being flippant. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking you’d like to change the channel on me. But the remote is across the room, so you’ll have to hear me out.

A new study suggests that kids who watch as much as one hour of TV a day have a significantly increased incidence of overweight and obesity.

“Children watching one to two hours were heavier than those watching less than one hour, and were almost as heavy as those watching greater than two hours daily,” the study’s author, Dr. Mark DeBoer of the University of Virginia, told Newsweek.

Why would this be, especially when playing video games and using the computer did not lead to similar increases. The researchers did not get to that result, but other studies have suggested that the steady barrage of (junk) food ads during children’s programming could account for some of the problem.

My experience suggests that the passivity of TV is a bigger key. It’s pretty tough to play XBox when you have your hand stuffed into a bag of Doritos, and typing while eating Cheetos leaves that orange crud all over the keyboard.

Dying to Exercise

old guy runningA recent article in JAMA Internal Medicine (admittedly not a journal I regularly read) indicated that exercise is good for us. This groundbreaking conclusion actually brought some joy to the hearts of serious runners who have been getting smacked with occasional studies suggesting that excessive exercise increases mortality. This much-larger study found the following decreases in mortality over the 14-year duration of the study. (I’ve expressed them in running terms, but the study did not restrict itself to running.)

  • 5 miles a week=a 20% decrease in mortality chances.
  • 10 miles a week=a 31% decrease.
  • 15 miles a week=37% decrease.
  • Up to 50 miles a week=39% decrease.
  • Over 50 miles a week=31% decrease.

Clearly any sensible person will avoid running over 50 miles per week, right? For me it will be 49.9 miles and not one step farther! But seriously, do people who run in excess of 50 miles a week do it just to prolong their lives?

Since I’m interested in the stewardship of the Christian body, it occurred to me that a bit of math might be possible. Let’s assume that our runner is doing 8-minute miles and that the reduction in mortality adds years to your life. For the purposes of my decidedly non-scientific study, I’ve assumed that average life expectancy is 80 years and that a 20% reduction in mortality adds 2 years to that. A 31% reduction thus adds 3.1 years and so forth. How did I arrive at those numbers? Honestly, I just plucked them out of the air, but humor me.

If you run 5 miles a week at 8 minutes a mile, you’ll spend just under 35 hours running each year. If that 20% reduction in mortality gains you 2 additional years of life, you’ll gain 17,520 hours of life minus 70 hours of running for a net gain of 17,450 hours or 1.99 years.

Running 35 miles a week, right in the middle of that optimal range, you’d spend a whopping 242 hours a year on the road, but your 39% reduction in mortality would earn you an additional 3.79 years of life.

Some very attentive reader will note that I have not accounted for the hours that must be run between now and when you hit your “extra time” over 80. So let’s assume that our light runner is 20 years old. Those 35 hours a year over 60 years will mount up to 2,100 hours or roughly 3 months. The net gain is still considerable.

Granted, my math is vaporous stuff but the basic premise is sound. When we invest our time in exercise–running or swimming or whatever–we’ll not just spend time. We’ll gain an increase of time on this earth. That’s time for mission trips, family events, community service, or just to make your retirement providers pay out more.

Even if exercise does not reduce stress, improve self-image, or anything else positive, the longevity issue ought to seal the deal. Exercise, the numbers insist, is good stewardship.

Stand up for Jesus (and yourself)

The people in my choir almost uniformly groan when the director asks them to stand up to sing a piece in rehearsal. “It’s too much trouble,” we seem to say.

At the risk of sounding boastful, I’ll claim that I never groan about standing. Normally I’m frustrated to be singing “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” with my keister firmly planted in the chair. Besides, I know that the 210 calories that I’ll burn during a 90-minute choir rehearsal would jump to about 270 if I were standing.


A recent news item reports a study performed at the Medical College of Wisconsin suggesting that every daily hour a person spends sitting increases their chances of developing heart disease by 14%. The skeptic in me wonders if those who have an 8-hour-a-day sitting job have a 112% chance of developing heart disease.

The participants all spent between two to 12 hours a day sitting at the office and in front of the television. The researchers concluded that for every hour spent sitting, the levels of deposit rose by 14 per cent.

It’s a wonder that those 12-hour sitters aren’t already dead. I’m not sure if this report reveals poor science or poor journalism–the latter, I would hope–but the basic idea makes sense. Far too many of us roll out of bed in the morning and then sit in the car (or on public transport) en route to a job where we mostly sit at a computer before heading back home to sit on a different computer or in front of the TV when we’re not sitting on the couch or at the table stuffing our faces with unhealthy food.

While the math of this report might not make a lot of sense, the basic idea is sound not just physiologically but spiritually. Do you serve God best while sitting down? Do you build up and preserve your body on the couch? Do you make the most of what you have been given from a perch in the La-Z Boy?

Stand up for Jesus, people. Stand up.