Watching Too Much Television

When the late, great Ray Bradbury wrote the classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451, he wasn’t warning people about a neo-Nazi takeover in the future. He was really warning people about what was, at the time when he wrote the novel, a new but steadily growing household technology: TV.

Television has spread like wildfire through a dry forest or heath since the early 1950s, and today even the poorest households of the modern world have at least one color television set. Many households have many TVs. Business offices and restaurants and places to stay for travelers have them. Even cars have them.

Bradbury was troubled that television would dull people’s minds. But British researchers have concluded that it dulls something else: men’s sperm counts. Even very young men’s.

In 2009 and 2010, British researchers followed 189 very young men between the ages of 18 to 22 who lived in Rochester, New York (USA). They watched 20 or more hours of TV every week. They had 44% lower sperm counts than those of their age range who watch less television and who are more physically active. Other research found that men who exercise 15 hours or more per week, whether moderately or intensely, have sperm counts that are 73% higher than average. These men watched television only four to 15 hours per week, as well as working out. The researchers also found that the men who watched 20 or more hours of television did not completely reverse their impaired sperm counts by exercising — and they did not exercise as intensely as the other group of men, either.

Watching Too Much Television

How Could Television Lower Sperm Counts?

In truth, it makes no sense to believe that television watching in and of itself lowers sperm counts. Watching too much television usually leads a man to other bad lifestyle and health choices, and it’s these choices which cause the sperm counts to diminish.

Clearly, a man who watches 20 hours of television a week tends to have a sedentary lifestyle. He’s just not moving around enough, and even doing some workouts to try to balance things out doesn’t seem to be enough. (Part of the problem here is that he doesn’t sustain enough intensity with his working out, since his lifestyle lowers his endurance for that.) Being sedentary also tends to induce people to be more susceptible to smoking or heavy drinking. Common sense and observation tell us that people who watch a lot of TV also tend to have subpar dietary habits.

Healthy Television Watching

If you’re someone, even an older man or a woman, who watches television too frequently, there are some actions you can take to lower the amount of time you spend lounging and watching.

  • Choose more mentally stimulating shows to watch. Mental stimulation, like physical movement, burns calories, and mentally stimulating shows tend to inspire people to go do activities such as stargazing, reading, building models, going on hikes, and so on, so that they naturally are away from the TV more often. The Science Channel, the History Channel, and similar channels are good selections.
  • Replace one hour per day of TV time with one hour of reading time. Preferably offline reading. As you grow used to this, try to replace even more watching time with reading time as you feel the need.
  • Be more active as you watch TV. You might perform fingering exercises on a musical instrument as you’re watching a show. You could doodle when the commercials come on, or do a few exercise reps during commercials.
  • Make yourself be choosier about the quality of TV shows that you watch. Is there really as much as 20 hours worth of important and good quality TV viewing on every week?
  • Take up a new hobby. The time that you need to devote to the hobby will equal time that you cannot spend staring at a TV screen.