Cut the Cable for Greater Health

TV Cable

It  has been almost seven years now…

It was a difficult decision at first, and all I wanted to do was get more as soon as I stopped. I found myself talking about it incessantly with other addicts at work and thinking about it during other times throughout the day. My mother would even call me to talk about it — and sometimes even my grandma participated. To satisfy my addiction further, I bought a contraption to save the amount I was not using when I was away from home.

While it was a low point for me nearly seven years ago, I am proud to say that I have been clean ever since with no looking back. In fact, I do not even miss it.

One of the Best Decisions of My Life

Canceling my cable was one of the best decisions I have made on the road to recovering my life.

The time I used to spend watching television is now spent going for long walks, caring for my garden, exercising, visiting my family, writing, learning more about my hobbies, and taking bike rides along the river. At the time it was a tough move to replace the exciting aspects of cable with these ‘boring’ and unfulfilling activities, but it has proven to be worth it.

I had a little extra incentive considering I canceled my cable at the start of my radiation oncology residency because I figured I was not going to have time for much else in my life during those five years — especially distractions. The fact that I have the attention span of a five-year-old after two cans of Coke and a packet of Pop Rocks added insult to injury and another reason why cable might need to be eliminated during this important period of my life. I figured I needed every advantage possible to have enough time to finish my work in the clinic while still being able to learn the abundance of information necessary to be a practicing radiation oncologist.

Oddly enough, during my free time throughout residency, I managed to publish over 20 peer-reviewed articles, start a business and website with over two million visitors, co-host a top ten podcast and write a book – Misguided Medicine. I also was able to concentrate on reaching top physical shape; I became stronger in the gym, lost a couple of inches from my waist and decreased my 100-meter sprint time.

How Did I Do It, You Ask?

Simple — I took a step towards recovery and canceled my cable. Whether it was 30 minutes here or an hour there, my free time seemed to keep piling up throughout the week. With no television to stare at, I found myself outside engaging in other activities often playing sports, going for walks, or meeting with colleagues. In the end, all of these were more rewarding and more stimulating than plopping down on the couch and wasting away in front of the big screen. It is amazing how much time becomes available when there is no television to switch on at any instant. This being said, I did watch some TV after canceling my cable, though mostly online and in order to catch my favorite show every once in a while.

More Time or More Health Issues, You Decide

While cable television is extremely effective at decreasing your activity levels,1 it is also works quite well at increasing the amount of fat on the body2 and effectively disrupting sleep habits leading to less effective rest time.3 Amazingly, the issues with watching television do not stop there, as it is apparently associated with an increased risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, and cancer.4

With the recent nonstop World Cup coverage on television, I realized just how much cable has taken a back seat in my life. I found myself actually playing soccer during this time, while stopping to watch the rare match that I was interested in online. As for the other games, with no cable around, I experienced life instead of watching it pass me by on the television. In doing so, I increased my activity level, slept better, fought heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and in the meantime became significantly more productive and mentally sharp. I’ll be able to carry these benefits with me as I age.5–8

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1. DuRant, R. H., Baranowski, T., Johnson, M. & Thompson, W. O. The relationship among television watching, physical activity, and body composition of young children. Pediatrics 94, 449–55 (1994).
2. Giammattei, J., Blix, G., Marshak, H. H., Wollitzer, A. O. & Pettitt, D. J. Television watching and soft drink consumption: associations with obesity in 11- to 13-year-old schoolchildren. Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 157, 882–6 (2003).
3. Cespedes, E. M. et al. Television Viewing, Bedroom Television, and Sleep Duration From Infancy to Mid-Childhood. Pediatrics 133, e1163–1171 (2014).
4. Dunstan, D. W. et al. Television viewing time and mortality: the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab). Circulation 121, 384–91 (2010).
5. Elward, K. & Larson, E. B. Benefits of exercise for older adults. A review of existing evidence and current recommendations for the general population. Clin. Geriatr. Med. 8, 35–50 (1992).
6. Layne, J. E. & Nelson, M. E. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 31, 25–30 (1999).
7. Larson, E. B. Health Benefits of Exercise in an Aging Society. Arch. Intern. Med. 147, 353 (1987).
8. Martinsen, E. W. Benefits of Exercise for the Treatment of Depression. Sport. Med. 9, 380–389 (1990).

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  1. Pingback: Sleep and Cancer, Circadian Rhythms, and the Color Blue

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