The researchers found that every hour of daily TV watching increased the risk of dying from any cause by 11 percent. For cardiovascular diseases the increased risk was 18 percent, and for cancer it was 9 percent. Compared with those who watched less than two hours per day, those who watched TV for more than four hours each day had an 80 percent increased risk of dying early from cardiovascular disease and a 46 percent increased risk of dying from any cause.
The association between TV watching and death remained even when the researchers took into account risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, excessive weight and exercise.
Although the study was done in Australia, the findings are applicable to Americans, Dunstan said. Average daily television watching is about three hours in Australia and the United Kingdom, and up to eight hours in the United States, where many people are either overweight or obese, he noted.
"What we are now starting to understand is that the risks associated with sedentary behavior are not necessarily offset by doing more exercise," Dunstan said.
"In other words, irrespective of how much exercise you do, if you sit watching television for four hours on a daily basis you still have a substantially increased risk of early death from all causes and a much greater risk of cardiovascular disease," he said.
Experts agreed that to stay healthy you need to keep on the move.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that "regular exercise has been consistently demonstrated to result in improved cardiovascular health and lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and premature death."
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