Is our sports-watching obsession killing us?
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There are plenty of legitimate reasons to curtail sports participation, including work and family obligations. But though they stop playing sports, many men continue to spend lots of time watching and following them.
Everyone knows the effect inactivity has our health. Numerous studies have found a link between TV watching and poor health.
Studies routinely find that most Americans get less than the minimum recommended level of physical activity, about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day. In fact, according to the CDC, only about one-third (35 percent) of American adults engage in regular physical activity. About the same share, 33 percent, do no activity at all.
Our inactivity helps explain why two-thirds of American adults are classified as at least overweight, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
And why there’s been a “dramatic increase” in overweight and obesity rates over the last two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010 “no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%,” according to the CDC.
Inactivity is associated with a host of other maladies, including heart disease, diabetes, depression and hypertension. Every year in the U.S. at least 250,000 deaths are attributed to a lack of physical activity.
So is our love of sports killing us? Let’s just say that when millions of Americans are spending most of their weekends watching sports and filling out their fantasy football lineups, there’s a lot less time for exercise.
Health is not the only casualty. We chuckle at women whose sports-crazed husbands have made them “sports widows.” But a clinical psychologist from the University of Alabama recently warned that football fanaticism qualifies as an addiction that can have profound effects on our relationships.
Other psychologists have discussed how sports have become a substitute to organized religion.
And our sports obsessions can distract us from more serious matters.
As former Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith has written, “If people would spend as much time investigating and looking at our government or some of the decisions that are made in this country as they do memorizing stats of players, then we’d have a better understanding of the world and would be capable of making better decisions.”
I’m no sports hater. Growing up, I spent countless hours every day watching, playing and following sports. I played high school sports and was a scholarship athlete in college. I put in thousands of hours in Tecmo Bowl and Madden Football. I’m a proud two-time winner of the fantasy football league I used to play in.
Now in my 30s, I continue to play sports several times a week, and I still enjoy taking in a good game. But the degree to which watching sports dominate the lives of many American men is, in a word, pathetic.
Sports have much to offer. They can promote teamwork, sportsmanship and good health and instill discipline and humility. But most of these benefits are derived not from watching, betting on, or fantasizing about sports. They come from actually playing them.
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