Watching TV is worse than sitting all day at work, study claims

Our disgraceful, sedentary lives are finally getting a break.

It turns out that sitting all day — often labeled as bad as smoking — isn't as bad for you if you're at your desk working. But listen up, couch potatoes: The real health detriments come from sitting in front of the TV, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.


The researchers from Columbia University found that television viewing is associated with more cardiovascular events and mortality, compared to sitting at a desk job, which had no association with those outcomes.

"Even if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, replacing the time you spend sitting at home with strenuous exercise could reduce your risk of heart disease and death," says the study's author Keith M. Diaz in a statement.

"How you spend your time outside of work may matter more when it comes to heart health," adds Diaz, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The study looked at about 3,500 participants and compared their behavior and health over about eight years. Previous studies that have maligned sitting haven't been as thorough when it comes to study length and distinguishing between the types of sedentary activity a person does.

They found that people who watched four or more hours of television a day had a 50 percent greater risk of cardiovascular events and death compared to those who watched it less than two hours a day — so, catching up on a couple episodes of "Big Little Lies" isn't the worst thing we can do, either.

But you're not totally cleared to be a desk slave either. Doctors still warn that prolonged sitting can lead to hip problems, bad posture and weakened muscles, leading to an uneven gait and other issues.

The good news is that even if you are a TV sloth from time to time, the averse health effects can be offset by regular exercise, they found in the study.

The difference probably has something to do with all the breaks we're forced to take at work, Diaz says.

"It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently," Diaz says. "The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful."