Television is a chewing gum for the eyes. -Frank Lloyd Wright
April 22-28, 2002 marked the eighth annual TV-Turnoff Week. During this week, people are encouraged to turn off the television and do other activities. Recent studies point out that Canadians are more sedentary than ever. Health experts blame television, computers, parcel pickups and drive through conveniences for the slowdown and predict that the long-term effects on our health could be deadly if Canadians don’t get active soon.
Health Minister Anne McLellan has publicly called for children to spend more time outside and to spend less time in front of the television. According to Statistics Canada, in the fall of 2000, Saskatchewan men over 18 watched 20.7 hours of television each week. Women over 18 watched 25.2 hours per week and children age 2-11 watched 15 hours a week. The national average for the same time period was 21.5 hours of television viewing per week. Physical education programs in schools are being targeted for improvement as the future of Canada’s sports programs could be in jeopardy. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis are on the rise due to our sedentary lifestyle. Experts predict saving millions of health care dollars if these issues could be addressed.
What is TV-Turnoff Week? The TV-Turnoff Network, originally known as TV-Free America, follows its mandate of encouraging people to turn off the television and pursue other activities like yoga or gardening. Founded in 1994, the Network believes that people have the power to decide the role that television plays in their everyday life. Instead of waiting for “others to make better television”, the TV-Turnoff Network urges people to turn off the television and regain lost time for families, friends and personal pursuits. According to the Network, during last year’s TV-Turnoff Week, six million people all over the world turned off their televisions.
So how are Canadians being encouraged to make healthy lifestyle choices? As a child, I remember watching ParticipACTION commercials on television, where 60-year-old Swedish men ran circles around Canadian men half that age. 32 years later, the organization is still working to promote healthy lifestyles for Canadians. Currently, ParticipACTION is working with government and other organizations towards the goal of reducing the number of inactive Canadians by 10% by the year 2003. Their website has information on wellness programs for the workplace, advice and support for parents whose children are participating in sports, information on community programs and healthy lifestyles.
April 7th was World Health Day. This year’s theme of “Physical Activity for Health” emphasized the importance of physical activity and healthy choices. The World Health Organization (WHO) promotes physical activity as a way to solve certain health and social problems like youth violence and isolation among the elderly. The organization believes that physical activity encourages tobacco free lifestyle choices and can decrease drug use. Health Canada concurs with the World Health Organization. According to Health Canada, being informed will influence Canadians to make healthy choices with the result of improving overall health and our sense of well-being. Benefits from physical activity include stress reduction, strengthening of the heart and lungs, and increased energy levels. Two thirds of Canadians are at risk of serious illness because of dangerously inactive lifestyles, especially children and women ages 25-44. Clearly, Canadians need to be more active, more often.
Looking back on TV-Turnoff week, I realized that my family is not active enough. Observing our daily activities, I was amazed at how many hours a day the television is on in our house, whether we are watching it or not. Healthy living is just not about eating more fruit and less junk food. Next year’s TV-Turnoff week is April 21 to 27, 2003. I think that we should turn the television off and get active on our own, not because some one else schedules it.
For more information, check out the following websites:
Health Canada: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
TV-Turnoff Network: http://www.tvturnoff.org/
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/homepage
Teresa is enrolled in the Bachelor of Professional Arts Program -Communications Studies program at Athabasca University and is enjoying returning to school after 18 years. Teresa enjoys writing, union activism and gardening. Teresa lives and works in Regina, Saskatchewan, with her partner Kevin and son Adam.