Olympic TV watching rates as a marathon test
lovers planning to clock up long hours on the couch during the Olympic Games have been warned they could be putting their own health at risk by watching elite athletes perform in London. Dietitians and doctors have united to warn against the dangers of snacking in front of the TV overnight and not getting enough sleep. The latest Newspoll suggests 86 per cent of Australians will be watching on television. A quarter will tune in ‘‘as much as possible’’. With London nine hours behind the eastern states, most events will be run and won overnight local time. The Dietitians Association of Australia is worried people will turn to sugary, salty and fatty treats to stay awake. ‘‘While we might be inspired by looking at elite athletes, it doesn’t mean it will translate into us eating healthier and being more active,’’ association spokeswoman Julie Gilbert says. The Brisbane-based nutritionist says when people were distracted by TV they often indulged in ‘‘mindless eating’’ and lost track of what they had consumed. The key, therefore, is to only take small portions to the couch. ‘‘Don’t grab the big block of chocolate because you’ll end up eating it all,’’ Ms Gilbert says. ‘‘Instead, cut off little small pieces and sit down with that.’’ The nutritionist is also encouraging sports fans to do some exercise before watching the Games or, at the very least, get up from the couch during the ad breaks. She suggests doing push-ups, sit-ups or using hand weights so that ‘‘before you know it you’ve actually had a really good work out’’. Alternatively people could watch their heroes while using an exercise bike or treadmill. The Australian Medical Association believes the Olympics is a ‘‘special occasion’’ and health professionals shouldn’t be ‘‘killjoys’’. But president Steve Hambleton warns that while staying up late and snacking occasionally is OK, people shouldn’t go ‘‘berserk’’ over the next fortnight. ‘‘If you spend five nights in a row without having proper sleep you’ll pay for it,’’ he said. ‘‘We don’t want people to have car accidents because they’re fatigued and fall asleep on the way home from work.’’ Dr Hambleton recommends replacing chips and chocolate with healthier snacks like popcorn without seasoning and ‘‘sensational’’ celery.