Lyndsay Buckland: Initiatives will be a switch-off

Experts are suggesting we strive for 'TV-free days'. Picture: Jon Savage
Experts are suggesting we strive for 'TV-free days'. Picture: Jon Savage
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When it comes to Scotland’s battle with the booze, we’re all now well aware of the concept that each week we should be aiming to have “alcohol-free days” to let our livers dry out for a bit.

Now, in the battle with the bulge, experts are also suggesting we strive for “TV-free days” where instead of slumping on the sofa we get up and so something more active.

In new draft guidance this week, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said people should be told to reduce viewing time by having no TV at all some days or setting themselves a limit to watch for no more than two hours a day.

While Nice guidance is chiefly aimed at the NHS south of the Border, it can also have influence in Scotland – though how much influence this particular recommendation will have is up for debate.

In my house, I fear a TV-free day would do little to improve one’s health. In fact, the very thought of it is causing my blood pressure to rise.

When you have a toddler who would quite happily spend every waking hour running from one end of the house to the other, a sweaty ball of energy who laughs in the face of exhaustion, any activity which means he sits still for more than a minute at a time is a godsend.

So when he says “Let’s watch Thomas [the Tank Engine]”, this is often a cause for celebration. If I said: “No, we’re on a TV-free day today” it would not take long for him to work out there are other ways of getting a Thomas fix these days. “Thomas on iPad?” or “Thomas on phone?” would come the well-reasoned reply.

Of course, if you were an adult or child who did little other than watch TV, there is a lot of merit in watching less and becoming more active. This should be common sense. But demonising TV is surely not the answer.

Watching TV helps us relax and unwind. It keeps us informed about things happening far outside our little worlds. It is a distraction from life’s stresses and strains, and even just company for many people. All these benefits are often ignored when we’re looking for something to blame for our expanding girths.

Not for the first time, guidance has been produced telling us what we should already know – eat less and exercise more – and has chucked in a bit of stuff about TV to distract from the fact that there’s nothing much new here.

If only policy-makers would do something to help us live up to their ideals – increase access to sport facilities for example, or help reduce the cost of healthier food options – maybe we could finally get somewhere.