Wednesday January 30, 2013
Veg out, lose out?
By ANN MARIE CHANDY and S. INDRAMALAR
A claim that marathon TV viewing can shorten your life by five years has our Spudniks scrambling to change their ways. Or at least think about it.
WHEN Lorelai cheated on Luke at the end of Season Five of Gilmore Girls, I was crushed. No, really. I was multitasking Ė moving the the towers of books that had collected on the side tables in my living room to the nearby bookshelf, all while I watched the show. So, when Lorelai actually climbed into bed with Christopher, her ex and the father of her daughter, Rory, I was gutted.
My jaw dropped and so did the books I was holding (these were thick, hardcover cookbooks; Nigella Lawson was in the pile) and they landed right on my feet. Oh, the excruciating pain Ö from both my feet and my heart. How could Lorelai? How could I (be such a klutz)?
Lesson learnt: never multitask when watching a drama, especially when the plotline is getting intense.
The truth is, some shows (like Dexter, Homeland, The Big Bang Theory) require full attention and others (Blue Bloods, Two And A Half Men, The Mentalist and Friends), well, not so much.
Take the reality singing show The Voice, for example. Itís the perfect show to have on in the background while I go about clearing, cleaning, Facebook-ing and maybe even catching up on my reading.
After all, apart from knowing who is singing what, there is no need to actually watch the performances in full. The only time I donít avert my eyes is when the judges give their comments because theyíre pretty entertaining and yeah, Adam Levine is so fine.
Will & Grace is another show which I can half-watch. To be honest, I tune in to the show to watch the supporting stars rather than Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) and so, when the camera isnít on Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally), I go about my own business.
Multitasking while watching TV is a good way of making sure I donít become a stereotype: the sedentary couch potato. You know, lying on the sofa, with all manner of crumbs lodged in the folds of my pyjamas, hair tousled and teeth not yet brushed. Ack!
New York Times physical education columnist Gretchen Reynolds wrote about the health risks from sitting in front of the TV for a long time in her blog last October. Reynolds quoted a study that was published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine which found that ďevery single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewerís life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.Ē
What? Wait, thereís more. The researchers concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not watch TV (and this, they claim, applies even to those who are fit and exercise regularly).
Oh boy! Thatís simply not fair! I can practically see five years of my life being snatched from me. Six hours a day is at least the number of hours I spend in front of my TV every day. And what about those mad marathons during the weekends to allow us to catch up on an entire season of a particular series? Those marathons are lethal, I tell you.
When the Supernatural marathon aired some time ago, I remember spending most of my weekend in my pyjamas, eating just snacks for meals and getting up only for bathroom breaks.
To be honest, I was exhausted and maybe even a little ill by the end of it.
So when the Mad Men marathon commenced a little later that year, I tried to add some activity into the schedule: I changed into my exercise gear and actually did a few stretches and squats in front of Don Draper and his crew (pardon me if that sounded improper). I ran into the shower (sacrificing a good 10 minutes of the show), wrote out my grocery list and even cut my vegetables and prepped the dayís meal on the dining table.
Yeah, Iím pretty sure Iím not your stereotypical couch potato. You can take three years of my life, but not five! Ė SI
■ UH-OH. This does not bode well for me. Exercise and watch TV at the same time? Multitask? Prep the dayís meal while trying to figure out Stewieís life philosophies on Family Guy or keep up with the eight hundred different dramas on Modern Family? You have got to be joking. I surrender. Gretchen Reynolds can have five years of my life. Go ahead. Iím not about to do sit-ups in front of the TV, thank you very much.
The television is like a shrine in my home. We pay homage every time we walk past it. (I am kidding, donít get your holier-than-thou knickers in a twist.) So look, I agree that there are some shows which you can pretend youíre actually watching and get away with flipping through The Star. You can run to the kitchen and whip up a coffee, or make a quick dash to the toilet before anything really important transpires. (Warning: This rule does not apply to football matches. What? I was gone for all of three seconds and they scored a goal?)
Letís see ... I usually am only using like half of my brain when Iím watching any CSI episode these days, or any police procedural for that matter. Iíve watched so many such episodes, I can guess whodunit, how and why, all before you can spell Marg Helgenberger backwards. So technically, if I were forced to multitask for a TV show, I possibly could, during something like CSI or any of the sitcoms or reality shows. (For American Idol, these days, I just sit in my bedroom and listen to the goings-on in the living room as my son Ryan still tunes in ... Ryan, whatís wrong with you?!) Although truth be told, when I was watching all those Bachelor and Bachelorette episodes, they had my undivided attention (donít laugh, Iím only human).
Now, if the series is something I am really into Ė Revenge (for a while), Dexter (first season), Big Bang Theory (I mean, you have to pay attention when nuclear physics or Leonard Nimoy is involved) Ė then, I have to say I will not budge from my couch.
I am happy to look slovenly, just so I can watch as many episodes as possible on the weekend before having to go to work on Monday. I remember being super-glued to my TV, trying to finish each season of Battlestar Galactica in one sitting.
I was so sleepy and tired, I swear I kept seeing armoured automatons at the office during those BSG-filled days, and more than once, I thought my computer terminal had transmogrified (yes, Iím a Calvin And Hobbes fan too, as if my life werenít complicated enough) into a Viper.
Yep, it can be physically gruelling. My kids seem to have no problem doing it for shows like True Blood and Supernatural. Maybe I have just passed my use-by date. So, yeah, five years of my life? They can have it. Iím happy to veg out when a good show comes along. That reminds me Ė Iíve just got myself the entire run of X-Files and I hear it calling. Ė AMC