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Don’t hate the TV

It always bugs me a little when people blame TV for making kids fat. I think a sedentary lifestyle is the real culprit here. TV is certainly a big cause for that and probably the most popular sedentary task, but it’s hardly the only activity that requires you to sit on your ass all day.

How come no one blames books for making kids fat? Whenever I read a book or magazine, I’m curled up on the coach, only burning calories when I flip the pages. Or what about knitting or crochet? I haven’t seen anyone running around our neighborhood while they’re crocheting a doily. I don’t think the typing I do while sitting here blogging is going to burn off many calories. I suppose I could trade in my office chair for a balance ball, but then my boss might think I’m training to run off and join the circus.

There are so many things that I do while just lying around that have nothing to do with TV. The only disadvantage I think watching TV has is that it’s a lot easier to eat while watching the screen because your hands aren’t occupied. It is much harder to chow down on a sandwich while you’re also holding a book and flipping pages. Trust me, I’ve tried. Usually I just quite reading for a bit so I don’t get peanut butter stuck between the pages.

However, you don’t have to just sit around while you’re watching TV. My aunt won’t even get on the treadmill unless she has a TV to distract her from the fact that she’s running. Also, I keep my free weights in a drawer in the cabinet by my television and lift them while watching a show so I don’t get bored. See, TV can be good for your fitness!

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hopefulloser • April 21, 2006 at 11:05 am

That was awesome! I love the thought of someone knitting while jogging, that’s cracking me up.

I agree that TV does not have to be the enemy.


Hilly • April 21, 2006 at 11:49 am

Um, I blame the Internet for making me fat ;).


Amyt • April 21, 2006 at 11:51 am

i think people compare it to the times before tv existed and kids did different things. kids in the 1880’s didn’t need soccer camp because they were working in mills for 15 hours a day. it’s just not realistic to say that tv makes kids fat when life is so different. not many people make their kids do farm labor anymore and they don’t have to walk miles and miles to school. it’s not a fair argument.


K • April 21, 2006 at 12:00 pm

You’d certainly have to blame reading more than TV for my teenage lack of fitness. Although I can and often do walk along the street with a book in my hand, even I find it a bit hard to focus on the page while running, even on the treadmill (this has been tried. Believe me).

Women used to knit as they walked in rural areas of Britain in the nineteenth century. I have seen “knitting sheaths” (don’t laugh) in museums, which held one needle steady against your hip, allowing you to knit one-handed as you went along. Presumably they were practised enough that they didn’t have to look at what they were doing too much.

I still don’t watch much TV, but the treadmills at the gym would be so much more fun if they had DVD players attached. I could bring my own stuff and watch Dr Who or Bleak House or LOTR or something. As it is, I have to watch Sky News. Not as good, people.


Katrina • April 21, 2006 at 3:08 pm

Thats so true. I’m not much of a tv watcher but am a reader. And when I was a child… look out. That was all I did.


Kelly • April 22, 2006 at 3:46 pm

I used to exercycle like a maniac in high school while watching TV. I’ve lately decided that if I ever, ever think I’m going to stay in one place for more than a year I really want to buy an elliptical. I would so love to do that while watching whatever I’ve Tivoed.

I absolutely agree that a sedentary lifestyle is to blame, but I wonder how much of that is aided by TV and video games and such. When I was little I was always outside playing with my friends, roller skating, bike riding. My parents never set limits on my TV watching, I just liked to be outside even in the hot Arizona summer.

I feel like I know so many kids now who just sit there watching TV, playing video games, etc. I don’t think there’s one cause for this. Less emphasis on imagination in general. Too many latch key kids whose parents want them staying inside. Just wanting to play the latest video game. Who knows. But I think in general obesity and childhood obesity in particular have been aided by us as a society becoming progressively more sedentary.


M. • April 22, 2006 at 4:42 pm

You… must… tell.. us… the.. results.. of.. your.. weigh-in… right… now.

I’ve been compulsively hitting the refresh button since this morning, I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome.

Heh, kidding


Juliet • April 23, 2006 at 12:25 pm

I was naturally a bit sedentary as a kid, thanks to my severely bookwormish ways, but we also didn’t have a TV until I was 10. If I got bored, there was nothing to do but come up with some activity to do inside or go outside and run around. I never just sat in front of the TV for hours — I was always doing *something*, even if it was a quiet something. I was never overweight as a kid, despite the fact that I never played sports, hated gym class, and am not one of those gifted “naturally rail-thin” types.

I believe that there are actually studies proving that sitting watching television burns fewer calories than just sitting quietly doing nothing, or doing something low-key like knitting or reading. This may be partly because we often remain almost entirely still while watching TV, and also because it’s mentally passive. Some sources indicate that the only activity that burns fewer calories than watching TV is *sleeping*!

I went looking for the actual study and found this:


Admittedly, it’s a biased site, but perhaps there’s something to it after all?

Of course, I think if I could watch TV while knitting while jogging, I think I’d *really* have it made! :)


phoebad • May 8, 2008 at 3:15 pm

What about office jobs that basically demand that your ass not leave the office chair except for a brief period for food and one other time to pee? Sure, no one’s going to shoot you if you get up and walk around, but if that short stroll is also the same time that your boss chooses to call… whoa, damn.


Kat • September 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

This post makes me remember my whole vendetta (well, I guess it wasn’t THAT extreme) against the “Verb: it’s what you do” advertisements that ran through both America and Canada for a while. I like to watch some cartoons (cause I’m a dork…or just “a kid at heart”) and on every cartoon station, they would have this “Verb: it’s what you do” commercial at just about every break. They showed kids running around and playing ball and all that stuff, but I just thought the entire PSA (or whatever you’d call it) was completely stupid. “Sitting” is a verb, as it “watching [TV]” or “eating [fried foods]” or “being [a lazy bum].”

You aren’t going to get kids to go exercise by telling them to go do some verbs. It’s almost like the creators of the PSA never had a lick of english class in their lives.

Anyway, this post reminded me of that. I don’t particularly know why, but it did!


Dana • July 29, 2009 at 12:07 am

I was a sedentary kid, and I was not fat. Not one single solitary smidgen.

I don’t think it an accident that we have all these fat kids now and for the last thirty years the experts have been preaching low-fat/low-cal. Duh. You cut back your fat grams and you’ll need to get your energy from somewhere. Get it from carbs and you wind up with permanently elevated insulin that locks up your fat cells and keeps them from emptying.

It’s happened to my son, who is every bit as sedentary as I was at his age, but whose diet is at least five times worse than mine was. At least I wasn’t raised by vegans. Oy.


Dana • July 29, 2009 at 12:09 am

I should add, he’s being raised by his grandparents (who adopted him), not me. When he was with me, he was slender, and I didn’t even know about the carbohydrate-obesity connection back then.

Basically they forgot that if they’re going to do stuff like adopt him they need to be his parents, not his grandparents, which means a lot less spoiling and they should feed him things that are actually nutritious for his body whether he likes them or not. At least his younger sister, my second child, may not share his fate. She’s more slender now at age four than he was at the same age. It’s something.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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