Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Want 14 extra hours? Want to live healthier?

It seems that the average New Zealander watches a little over three hours of television per day.[1] That’s 21 hours a week. Half a standard work week! Across New Zealand that’s around 12 million hours a day; a total of around 500,000 years (per year) that goes into television. That’s a lot of people-power hours, even if not the best hours.  

As much as anyone else I understand that sometimes at the end of the day, work over, kids in bed etc all you want to do is put your feet up and chill in front of the TV, watch a sit-com, a sci-fi, some sport or a movie. Some people are physically drained and want to chill. Some people are mentally drained and want to chill. Others are emotionally or intellectually exhausted. No argument from me.

I wonder though if we might be a little healthier if we cut out some of the TV and replaced it with something else? Of course we would! We all know this.

My suggestion is that you consider reducing your television viewing from 21 hours per week to 14 hours. Not too drastic. Now there are all sorts of meaningful ways you could spend an extra 7 hours. Here are a couple of suggestions that are simply focused on health.

With the 7 hours you free up you could consider…

1.   Reading for 4 hours per week – if your reading and comprehension abilities are only average it would take you less than 3 weeks to read a standard 300 page book. You’d actually get through about 19 books in a year. That’s pretty good going! And… if you made sure nine of these were non-fiction books by reputable writers that’s a fair amount solid download! You’ll be exercising the mind and this is an incredibly healthy habit. As you read more you’ll also become a better reader with your comprehension and wpm count going up. If your job is fairly intellectually demanding read something that is outside your field of work but an interest you have and you’ll find it energizing rather than draining.  

2.   Exercise for 3 hours per week – you’d be amazed at the results you can achieve in 3 solid work outs per week, be they running, weights, boxing, cross training etc. If you are pushing yourself and eating well you’ll burn fat, build muscle tone, release endorphins, sweat out toxins etc. Again you know how good this is for you. You just have to do it!  

Now of course, if you're just watching TV to "unwind" you could always consider ditching another 5 hours of TV, bring your total viewing time down to 9 hours (still a fair bit) and have an extra 5 hours of sleep per week. If your mind is being exercised and your body is being exercised (and properly feed) the other component for health that we need is rest. Sitting on the couch watching TV isn’t even close to the same thing as sleeping. The five hours extra per week, an hour per week night, will energize and increase your efficiency across the rest of the day. You’ll cope with stress better, your kids better, and your husband/wife better. You’ll work smarter, you’ll think clearer and you’ll be better for it.

All you have to do is turn television off and engage!

[1] Statistics in online articles vary a little but there seems to be a general agreement on this figure.

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