Couch Potatoes: Take Action!

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In a hectic world of honors classes, SAT preparation and extracurricular activities, the television or computer often provides a much-needed break for many teenagers. But experts caution that too much time in front of the tube and not enough time at the gym could lead to an array of health issues.
Teenagers are spending more time in front of their computer and TV screens and less time on the playing field, say researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Their study revealed that physical activity among teenagers dropped greatly from early to late adolescence, especially among girls. For example, between the ages of 11 and 23, physical activity among girls decreased from 6 to 3 1/2 hours a week, and leisure time spent on the computer increased from 9 to 12 1/2 hours a week. Boys had a smaller decline in physical activity, but leisure computer use increased from 11 hours a week in early adolescence to 14 hours a week in their early 20s.
Teens often claim that their busy lifestyles don’t leave room for exercise.
“I get home from school and do my homework, eat dinner, watch TV, take a shower and go to sleep, leaving me no time to exercise,” said 16-year-old Tom Levy.
Teens who spend a lot of time planted in front of the TV are more likely to have higher blood pressure, even if they are not overweight, The Journal of Adolescent Health reports. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and stroke in later years. Studies also show that the “couch potato” lifestyle can increase a teen’s risk of obesity.

Experts recommend limiting television and computer use to one hour a day or to weekends only in order to avoid or reduce the health risks. They also suggest setting aside an hour each day to exercise and, at a minimum, to balance sedentary behavior with physical activities. This will help the body’s muscle and bone development and help maintain a healthy heart. Just as important as the health benefits, some researchers claim that physically active teens are less likely to get involved in risky behaviors like smoking or drinking, and are more apt to have positive traits, such as better self-esteem, higher grades and more sleep.
Teens don’t need to sacrifice their obsession with “Scrubs” or their time on Facebook. They just need to add some daily jogging, swimming or reps at the gym to improve their health.





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