TVs, PCs and Smart Phones- PILE ON THOSE POUNDS:
The way in which you spend your recovery time between training sessions could have a big impact on your weight and shape on race day. Is your 160 hours or so of recovery time per week partially “active recovery”? Or is it close to 100% “lazy log” recovery?
Recreational runners often ask me how they can shed that extra 5kg or so. They are putting in some decent mileage in training. Maybe running 70km a week. They are eating fairly well. Or are they? We look at their nutrition. What other factors apart from just training and nutrition can keep the pounds on? Or are other factors mixing with training and nutrition to adversely affect one or both of them? Let’s look at one factor- SCREEN TIME.
Screens are in front of all of us these days. TVs, PCs, smart phones (the modern computer!). There is a strong link between obesity and screen viewing time. A screen time in one’s leisure time usually means a lower physical activity time and thus a far more sedentary lifestyle. Sure, if you are running 100 miles a week at an average of 3.40 pace, you will have burned quite few calories and can probably afford a bit of screen time. What does one do physically whilst watching TV/computer- generally not much more than when asleep- very little. For people that often are very time poor , screen time is often the only way they spend their free time. For the mega dedicated athlete who spends hours every day working hard and bathing in their own sweat, screen time can be one way to recover. For the recreational athlete who still has some “training time” to burn, is a lot of screen time the best option? Could this person be spending a greater portion of their spare time doing more exercise?
The media have acknowledged that they have the power to heavily influence the general public. That’s why companies spend huge amounts of money each year in advertising, especially advertising on TV. There is a causal link between the advertising of food and the rise in obesity, particularly childhood obesity. It is obvious that promoting fatty, sugary foods to children makes them overweight. It is not only children at risk. It is adults at risk as well. Media are highly skilled into brainwashing us into buying junk food whilst we are in front of a screen.
Junk food supposedly can no longer by advertised during TV programs and over the internet when a certain percentage of the audience is likely to be children. However, all in all the number of junk food ads that the children are exposed to as they are view all types of media, is still very high. Children are with adults a lot of the time, of course. Whilst the number of junk food ads on TV has dropped, it is certainly evident on the internet, billboards, etc. So not only is screen time forcing so many to be idle during their free time, it is also tempting them with that other nasty habit of bad nutrition.
Where would you be without your computer or smart phone these days? How would you organise your finances, what would you do in your spare time without social media and other computer related interaction.
Children need physical activity, social interaction, and the love and guidance of caring adults to be healthy, happy, and productive. The same can be said for adults! Too much time in front of a screen can deprive children of time for organized sports and other social activities that are beneficial to child development. Free play outdoors is the best way a child can interact, explore and exercise. Screen time has eaten into free play time, and thus the modern young person’s exercise time. I believe that to ensure healthy and appropriate use of computers both at school and at home, children’s computer time must be limited and their exposure to different types of content must be supervised. Again, the same can be said for adults in regards to the work/play balance. Adults need to think of themselves as BIG CHILDREN, especially when it comes to balancing exercise and idle time. Sure, so many of us rely on a screen for our work (school and career) these days. We must look to cut that line between work screen time and free time screen time. Being “outdoorsy” is a good thing.
Unfortunately, these days, parents use computers/smart phones in a similar fashion to TVs…they use them as “babysitters” for their children. “Put them in front of the computer and she’ll be right” is a common line of thinking for parents before and after a day’s work.
Children who spend an excessive amount of time in front of screens are likely to be displacing activities required for healthy development and increasing their risk of obesity. Exactly the same can be said for adults, including recreational level athletes. It may not be the obesity track these athletes are facing, but their performances can actually suffer with too much screen time. These athletes become “marshmallow athletes”- do a bit of running each day, or maybe 4-5 days a week (so maybe 5 hours of running a week), then live like a slug for the other 163 hours in the week (yes there are 168 hours in a week).
Use of the Internet to communicate with friends and family, who can provide strong social support, can of course be a positive computer experience. How much is too much? People have to figure out the balance between their exercise and idle screen time. If they are a person who spends many hours every day charging around playing in an extremely active fashion, playing sports, walking/riding/running to and from school or work, then some screen time for leisure is ok. If nearly all their leisure time is screen time, alarm bells must be raised. Can these people do something else instead of being in front of a screen?
Ok, 70km a week of running may be your limit in terms of injury/breaking down. However what else can you do to increase your fitness and health? Think like a parent of a child. What could you encourage your child to do as an alternative to screen time? Think outdoors rather than indoors. Just simply being outdoors opens up a whole different spiritual world which includes exercising. Think “olden days”. Activities such as imaginative play, organised team sports, backyard sports, park sports, walking, bike riding, scootering or skateboarding. Try dancing- at home, club or in a class or group. Use your body to travel to visit a friend (s) to talk rather than doing it on Facebook. Walk or cycle to do more smaller shopping trips rather than one big trip in a car a week. Work on your garden with vigour. Body surf. Surf, Paddle. Swim to that pole, point or island…. and back again. Walk the dog. play with the dog. Play with the kids. Do some Pilates, stretching, strength session or yoga in the lounge room, local park, your backyard. self massage using a foam roller, The Stick or spiky ball. Splash about in the pool. Climb a tree. Go rock climbing. Jump on the trampoline. Wrestle. Play chasings. Play hide and seek. The list goes on.
Parents/adults are the number one role mode for children. Parents sitting and lying down with screen time is giving the green light for children to do the same thing. So do you need to be on this screen now. Really? Up you get. Or maybe even throw out that TV…. for a start!