New 20-Year Study: Replacing TV with This Could Increase Your Odds of Aging Without Sickness by Almost 30%

Updated: Jun. 14, 2024

Spending hours of the day sitting is no bueno for your health, but researchers found an amount of TV viewing had a particularly damaging effect on lifespan.

Maybe you’ve heard about the health risks of sitting too much, but a new study underscores how important it truly is not to be overly sedentary—particularly in front of the television.

A June 2024 longitudinal study published in a journal of the American Medical Association found that spending too much time watching TV can have a negative effect on lifespan. A team of public health doctors relied on data which had tracked more than 45,000 participants aged 50 years and older starting in 1992 for two decades. An analysis revealed a marked association between viewing habits and rates of advanced aging.

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According to the newly published results, the researchers examined the differences between sedentary behavior, light-intensity physical activity and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity related to how they influenced aging. They defined “healthy aging” as living to at least 70 years old without major chronic diseases and maintaining good physical, mental and cognitive health.

Light-intensity physical activities included standing or walking around at home or work, while moderate-to-vigorous activities included the following:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Tennis
  • Squash or racquetball
  • Lap swimming
  • Calisthenics, aerobics, aerobic dance, or using a rowing machine
  • Yoga, stretching, or toning
  • Lawn mowing

The results were eye-opening: Every additional two hours per day spent watching TV was linked with a 12% reduction in the odds of aging free of chronic disease or diminishment of cognitive faculties. Further, incorporating more light physical activity, such as standing or walking around at work, was associated with a 6% increase in the odds of healthy aging.

The study also suggested that swapping just one hour of TV time for light physical activities at home or work could improve your chances of healthy aging by eight to 10%. The real whopper was the finding that replacing that hour with moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can boost your odds of healthy aging by 28%.

And if you’re someone who finds yourself watching movies or re-runs into the wee hours of the night, here’s some extra motivation to head to bed at a disciplined time: The study also found that replacing TV time with additional sleep could enhance healthy aging. This indicates that not only is reducing sedentary behavior important, but ensuring adequate sleep is also crucial for maintaining good health as we age.

Summer’s the perfect time to get moving, whether that’s just a walk at lunch or an hour on the treadmill in air conditioning—and even though the daylight lasts longer, you might consider sundown a good time to wind down.