Poker belly and health
After adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic variables, adults who watched more than 2 hours of television per day consumed 137 calories more than adults who watched less than 1 hour of television per day. Assuming that the energy intakes and expenditures remain constant throughout the year for the adults who watch more than two hours of television per day and that they consume more calories than they expend, these 137 excess calories per day would translate into a gain of 14.3 pounds per year.
-"Television-Viewing Characteristics of Adults," Preventing Chronic Disease (journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), April 2006
When I'm at a casino, I always try to be watchful for Internet players, those who are more likely to be far more experienced than any recreational player (due to Lee Jones' speeding up of time) and more aggressive than usual.
It's not hard to find these people. Months and possibly even years of sedentary play has created in many (including myself) what I call "poker belly," that unwanted badge of lack of exercise. Sure, some players are skinny, but finding players who look like they've spent years in front of a television/computer monitor/video game screen isn't too difficult.
For a while I've been interested in what prolonged poker play does to your health. Just out is an article in a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that examines length of time watching television and obesity. It found that those who watched more than two hours of TV each day typically were overweight or obese.
"Television viewing is a popular leisure-time activity and promotes a sedentary lifestyle by infringing on the time available for physical activity," it says. Sound familiar?
The study found a correlation between those who watched more than 2 hours of TV each day with having health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even heart disease, such as heart attacks and strokes.
In addition, those who saw less than an hour of TV each day consumed the least calories each day. The long TV watchers consumed less fiber but ate large amounts of snack foods filled with calories, from pizza to sodas.
The study doesn't mention poker, but it's easy to see the correlations.
"Individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds would benefit from reducing their television- or video-viewing time or time spent in similar sedentary activities," it says.
The fix? Simply to do more exercise, even possibly using treadmills or stationary bikes at home. It also says people should make sure they know that it's easy to gain weight by snacking in front of the TV.
Alan Schoonmaker, in "The Psychology of Poker" says that tight-aggressive players usually don't live that long, for reasons similar to those discussed in the study. We simply spend too many hours at the tables, eating terrible food and never get the exercise we need.
But it doesn't have to be that way, given the knowledge we have. Sure, exercising 20-30 minutes each day might make you miss a juicy game or two. But think of the rakeback and winnings you'll have by extending your life extra years, hopefully health problem-free? It seems plus-EV in the long run.