The indispensable role of physical activity in maintaining the health of the population is well known, but time spent on sedentary activities – such as watching TV, playing computer games, sitting at the computer, reading, travelling (by bus, tram, car, etc.) – is not usually given the attention it should be. Between 2005 and 2017, time spent sitting in the Czech Republic increased from 58 % to 62 %. The most common activity that families spend their free time on is watching TV, which still exceeds time spent on the computer. More than 80 % of Czech families watch TV every day or almost every day.

Dr. Geraldo Maranhano Neto Ph.D, Senior Resercher in Cardiovascular Medicine at the International Clinical Research Centre (FNUSA-ICRC) of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, published an article in the “Journal of Clinical Medicine”  in January 2022 on the impact of television viewing and physical activity on various health risks.

“The research showed that people who spent more than four hours a day watching TV had more total and abdominal fat, even if their physical activity fell into the medium or high category. For other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or triacylglycerol levels, TV viewing time was significantly higher in physically inactive individuals. This suggests that people who spend a lot of time in sedentary activities are more at risk for health risks, even if they are highly physically active,” says Dr. Neto.

“Unlike sedentary jobs, watching television is usually associated with the evening hours after eating dinner. During this time, we sit without breaks, and many of us associate watching TV with eating food, sugary drinks or smoking. It should be mentioned that time spent at home is steadily increasing, mainly due to the necessary isolation (caused by the COVID-19 pandemic) and the availability of streaming platforms. We must realise that sitting in front of the television for long periods of time is a habit that can be changed. Even those who exercise regularly should work on themselves in this regard,” said Dr Neto.

As an expert on physical activity, what recommendations would you give to Brno residents based on these results?

First, even if physical activity cannot prevent some of the health problems associated with sitting in front of the TV for long periods of time, it will always be beneficial to our health. It is good to constantly remind ourselves of this fact so that so-called inactivity is not an option for us.

It is also important to allow time between stopping watching TV and preparing for sleep. The key is to reduce the time spent in front of the TV to a maximum of 2 hours a day and replace it with other habits, such as reading, which helps very well with maintaining the quality of sleep. Eating food while watching TV should also be completely avoided. Remember that the time-honoured ‘everything in moderation’ applies to every habit, including watching TV.