Put down the remote: Watching TV is linked to belly fat, U of M says

What a surprise – watching the tube can make you fat.

It may seem obvious that being a couch potato could make you fat, but a recent study drives the point home.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health found that watching television (and other sedentary behaviors) are associated with higher levels of abdominal fat.

According to the U of M study, even people who exercise regularly and maintain a normal weight are at risk for higher levels of belly fat, and in turn, heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers looked at fat and liver weakness results from a previous study on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors – the participants in that study were middle-aged African-American and Caucasian men and women, a news release says.

Then they analyzed how the results related to sedentary behaviors, and found that for every added hour and a half a person spent watching the tube, their belly fat increased by about 3 cubic cm.

Why is TV the worst sedentary behavior?

"People tend to eat food while they watch television, and they might not do that as often when they’re reading a book or talking on the telephone,” lead author Kara Whitaker, Ph.D. told MinnPost.

But if this study bums you out because you can't wait for a winter full of your favorite shows, do not fear – The team plans to experiment with ways to reduce sedentary behavior in adults who spend most of their days sitting, such as replacing it with standing and light activity.

“The next step would be to determine what amount of sedentary time puts people at the greatest risk and offer suggestions for ways to decrease the amount of time spent sitting,” Whitaker said in the release.

In the meantime, researchers suggest getting active while watching TV, like using an exercise bike or moving around during the commercials.

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