Could weight loss be this easy?

Could weight loss be this easy?

Good medical research is all about asking smart questions.  It turns that shedding pounds may be as easy as cutting time spent seated in front of the boob tube.  By the way, the average American spends a stupendous 5 hours a day planted in front of the TV.

A study written up in a recent issue of the well regarded Annals of Internal Medicine asked this very question.  Lead researcher Jennifer Otten, PhD, at the Stanford University School of Medicine, took 36 adults who watched at least 3 hours of TV a day with a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 50 and split them into two groups.  By the way, someone 5’10” tall who weighs 350 pounds has a BMI of 50.  5’8″ and 200 pounds translates into a BMI of 30, the official cutoff point for obesity.

The test group had a device that shut off their TVs after they had reached a weekly limit of 50% of their prior viewing time.  The control group’s TV time was unlimited.  Subjects were monitored over a 3 week period.


Cutting viewing time in half helped the average adult in this study burn an extra 112 calories a day, what it takes to walk one mile.  According to Dr. Otten, “If they continued this calorie burn every day, it would amount to about 12 pounds a year.”  This is actually quite significant and compares favorably to any number of weight loss diets.


Many of the people who watched less became more physically and mentally active.  That is, they didn’t just trade one sedentary activity for another, such as messing around on the computer.  A few people walked their dogs more — also good for the dogs — while another took a yoga class and others played more with their kids.  One might expect this sort of activity to support emotional health, as well.

Although minimal change in sleep time was observed in this study when totals were averaged out, cutting back on TV may result in more sleep, which could also help drop pounds.  Lack of sleep is though to contribute to obesity.

So there you go — another good reason to limit TV viewing.  Given that TV might be likened to a Waring Blender for the mind while its endless stream of commercial messages serves mainly to excite the appetite for a lot of stuff we don’t need, maybe the best bet for long life, happiness and a bigger savings account is to simply get rid of the darn thing.

Otten et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, December 2009

One comment

  • Hi Doctor . yes I like to lose some more weight. I lost about 35 lbs with watching what I eat, low carb. I’m so old doctor ha ha ha, to tell you the truth, I can’t walk that much, painful when I walk a block. I do work out with Kaiser P, they have classes for us. great that is all I can do. thanks Doctor. adik

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