If TV Is Hazardous, Are Sports the Antidote?

August 26th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

In light of a startling study, physical activity is key.

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A new study by Australian researchers may provide extra motivation in switching off the TV in favor of something a little more active. The study, published by The British Journal of Sports Medicine, reports that adults over the age of 25 shorten their life expectancy by 22 minutes for every hour of television watched.

According to The New York Times, “The big problem with television watching, the researchers say, is its sedentary nature. People do not tend to watch television while running marathons. They do it from the sofa.”

Fortunately, one think tank is already trying to encourage people to opt for physical activity over watching television, and it has focused its efforts on kids and sports. The inaugural Sports & Society roundtable discussion at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Aspen Institute announced its new Sports & Society initiative in early May, led by Tom Farrey, an Emmy Award-winning ESPN journalist and author of the book Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children. Aside from USOC chief Blackmun, participants included Olympic champions, elected officials, executives and more. An Aspen Institute release about the initiative describes Sports & Society’s mission to “convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the needs of children and communities.”

First steps, according to the Institute, are figuring out the modern barriers that limit widespread participation in sports among kids and teens. It cited a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Education that found that high school athletes are more likely than non-athletes to attend college and earn degrees.

“We have a national disaster on our hands here,” Blackmun stated at the conference, citing the following surprising statistics:

·      Nearly 30 percent of American teens are completely inactive, meaning they do not exercise even one day a week.

·      One study showed that the number of inactive children and teens has doubled in the last three years.

·      Some children are spending as much as seven and a half hours per day in “screen time.”

The Sports & Society initiative noted that the U.S. is the “rare nation without a federal cabinet-level office to guide the development of sport.” Blackmun addressed how participating in sports – particularly learning sportsmanship and the ability to deal with loss – have contributed to his own now-grown kids’ success in the business world.

What do you think – are sports the answer to stemming all those passive – and allegedly hazardous – hours spent in front of the television? You can follow our own ongoing conversation about responsible sports coaching and parenting at responsiblesports.com.

(A portion of this story was previously published as “Kids Need Sports” on The Responsibility Project on 6/9/11)