Researchers at the Milken Institute in California found a direct link between spikes in technology usage and increases in obesity rates in 27 countries between 1988 and 2009. They specifically cited “screen time” as major reason, time spent in front of the computer and TV.
“Technological innovations, more processed foods, a greater amount of ‘screen time,’ less exercise, and higher consumption of snack foods have all played a role,” report co-author and economist Anusuya Chatterjee said in a news release. “These are all the adverse effects of a knowledge-based society.”
The smarty-pants Milken researchers looked at the connection between a country’s level of investment in communication technology (ICT) and their obesity rates. They found that for every 10 percentage point increase in ICT investment, the obesity rate of that country climbs 1.4 percentage points, on average.
“This is not surprising at all,” Angela Ginn, registered dietician and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells HealthySELF. “As individuals become more tech-sophisticated, their lives become more sedentary, and a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases.”
More than 500 million adults worldwide are obese, according to background info in the press release. The United States has the highest percentage; nearly 34% of the adult population is obese. The US is followed by Mexico (30%), New Zealand (26%), Australia (25%), and Canada (24%).
However, obesity rates in the developing world are rising, the researchers found. The obesity rate in China more than doubled between 2002 and 2008, from 2.5 percent to 5.7 percent.
Is there any good news is this report? Well the investigators also found that in countries with high ICT investment rates, a 1% increase in the number of physically active people can prevent a 0.2 percent rise in obesity. The report noted that obesity is the 5th leading cause of death worldwide. Not only does obesity lead to chronic disease and disability, but it also results in high human and economic costs for countries.
“In addition to the human suffering, a key concern is the price tag. In the U.S., the medical burden of obesity climbed to 9.1 percent of annual medical spending in 2006 from 6.5 percent in 1998. Today, it is probably 12 percent and rising,” concluded the report, published this month by the Milken Institute.
Don’t despair Rockheads, Scratch has some tips to help you cut down on yer screen time:
- Cut down screen time gradually each night. Just stick to your favorite show and limit yourself to one hour a day of that show.
- Watch movies and shows at the gym. Load up your Ipod; you may spend more time on the treadmill if you’re invested in the plot.
- Move while watching TV Try a hand bicycle or foot peddler. Use commercial breaks for sit-ups and squats
- Don’t Graze! Avoid bringing snacks to the couch or your desk. If you do need a snack, go for crunchy vegetables or air-popped popcorn, and limit your high-calorie treats to small snack bags once in a while. And remember, just because food is there, does not mean you have to eat it.
- Get up and move away from the computer. For people who work in front of a screen all day, getting moving can be a challenge, but you gotta do it.” Get up every 20 minutes to prevent the slowing down of your metabolism,” says Ginn. “Move the other room, walk up and down a flight of stairs or go to the next cubicle to chat.”