Gill South: Life outside the box

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How much TV is too much? Gill South talks to an expert and resolves to limit her square-eye time.

Research suggests excessive television watching during childhood may contribute to a host of ills in adulthood, such as: obesity, poor fitness and trouble socialising. Photo / Thinkstock
Research suggests excessive television watching during childhood may contribute to a host of ills in adulthood, such as: obesity, poor fitness and trouble socialising. Photo / Thinkstock

I watch TV in the evenings because I have nothing more to give. I am spent.

I'll admit it. I like to watch a bit of television of an evening. I have watched TV since I was young - one of my first memories was Dad coming home from work to the sound of Get Smart's opening tune. My first full sentence was, most likely, "I told you not to tell me that!" I can remember when my grandparents first got colour TV in 1973, a festive evening.

I watch TV in the evenings because I have nothing more to give. I am spent. I can't do any more work. I've cooked, driven kids home from sport, done homework, finally frogmarched the kids off to bed - it's my time.

But with a recent informal poll among my "tewibly intellectual" friends, I find I am one of the few to consistently watch TV most nights and I'm starting to feel I'm a bit different. I don't know what these people do with their evenings but they just seem to disappear in a haze of busyness. In my defence, although I am a big square-eyes, I also outread them all.

Our kids, during the week, would watch around 40 minutes a night, usually The Crowd Goes Wild or Modern Family, or a documentary. They have movie night on the weekends and will watch some sport if a big game is on. The boys will tell me that I watch more TV than they do, which is true and I'm wondering if that is a great look.

I talk to Otago University's Bob Hancox, an associate professor in preventative and social medicine, who has done a lot of research on kids and the health effects of their television-watching and how it can affect their adult lives.

The data suggest that excessive viewing during childhood may help to lay the foundations for overweight and poor fitness in adulthood, he says. They can have trouble socialising, getting jobs, it's quite scary.

These days the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting children's viewing to no more than two hours per night (this includes computer time). Children who exceed this recommendation are 50 per cent more likely to be obese and 47 per cent more likely to be unfit at age 32.

I tell him, despite my predilection for a good M*A*S*H telethon in my teens, I am not obese and have no trouble socialising. I think one of the things that saved me was in the early days there was only so much TV you could watch - and I was pretty sporty.

I ask Bob how much he thinks I should be watching, but he's like a psychiatrist, not wanting to tell me what to do. What we believe is that the less people watch, the better, he says.

So I'm going to try to keep myself to a one-and-a-half to two-hour limit and have the odd night off. New Zealand adults apparently watch an average of three hours a night and that does sound like too much when you think there are only 24 hours in the day.

I'm going to give Game of Thrones a miss, I can see that taking up a bit of time. But don't expect me to be achieving anything in the evenings after I've had my quota like going off to the gym, or writing a book. I'll most likely read even more. Heaven help the library.

Next week:

I'm thinking about a return to yoga to keep these bones strong. I enjoy the beginning and the end of yoga, I wonder if I can find somewhere where I can do just that.

- NZ Herald

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