Are You Still Watching? How Binge-watching TV Can Affect Your Health

woman eating popcorn and binge-watching watching tv

“Are you still watching?” We’ve all seen this familiar phrase staring back at us after the end of binge-watching our favorite show on Netflix. Sitting patiently on the TV screen, it waits while we contemplate if we should watch another episode. Taunting us—”just one more” … harmless, right? It isn’t until we’ve clicked “one more” for six hours straight that we suddenly realize it’s 3 a.m. and work starts in less than five hours. Sure, a couple of late nights a month is understandable, but what if this is how your nights play out every week? It’s time to take a step back, re-evaluate your TV habits and focus on the hidden effects binge-watching can have on your health.

Netflix defines binge-watching as “streaming between two and six episodes of the same show in a single setting.” With streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, viewers have access to thousands of their favorite television shows and movies, all in one place. With this level of entertainment, it’s no wonder people have a hard time getting off the couch. After all, watching TV is a great way to relax the mind and become engrossed in what’s happening in the story. With just a click of a button, you can be transported back in time to 1994, drinking coffee with friends at Central Perk, or even stuck in a world ruled by killer zombies. The options are endless. However, like anything, it should be done in moderation.

According to a study published in the December 2015 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “Every four hours spent binge-watching TV daily increases the risk of death from chronic disease by 15%, compared to those who watched less than an hour of TV per day.” Binge-watching on a chronic basis deprives us of exercise, which is desperately needed in the treatment of many chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It also deprives us of social interaction and may affect those predisposed to mood and anxiety disorders. Instead of having game night, going out to dinner or just staying in for an evening with family, we are consumed by an activity that is passive, leaving no room to build relationships.

Some might argue that watching TV all day is no different than sitting at your desk for an extended period of time at work. Yes, this can be detrimental to your health as well, but at least a work environment offers the opportunity for social interaction and the need to accomplish something. All that is required of binge-watching is sitting motionless in front of the TV.

If you’re thinking, “There’s no way I’m giving up TV,” then I totally agree with you. Television isn’t the enemy—paralyzing yourself day after day is the problem. In order to prevent binge-watching and reduce your risk of disease, follow these five easy tips that will help get you off the couch.

1. Set a timer

The best way to avoid binge-watching is to watch in moderation. Set a time for how long you are going to watch. When you’re watching television, really watch it. This is not the time to do other work and chase around the kids. If you watch with little interruptions, you will get the most out of what you watch, leaving you more satisfied.

2. Use TV time as a reward, rather than a ritual

As a way to motivate yourself to stay active, reward yourself after a good workout with an hour of TV. This will help you reduce the risk of disease while still allowing you to catch up on your favorite shows. After you get home from work, go straight into your workout, which will prevent you from being tempted to hit the couch.

3. Trade in your couch for a treadmill

An easy way to cut down on binge-watching is to simply cut out the middle man: the couch. Since sitting is the major health risk of binge-watching, why not try working out while you watch? Depending on the size of your living room, incorporating a treadmill or an exercise bike is an easy solution. Plus, it can be a helpful way to distract yourself, allowing you to be able to work out for a longer period of time.

4. Invite friends over to watch with you

In order to avoid the isolation that comes with binge-watching, try inviting friends over the next time you want to try out a new show. This way, you can talk about what happens in each episode, which encourages social interaction. This will also prevent you from getting “tranced” and will promote other social activities besides just watching TV.

5. Don’t go to sleep with the television on

The easiest way to lose sleep watching TV is by allowing yourself to watch right before bedtime. Even if you keep a television in your bedroom, it’s important to allow yourself plenty of time to “turn off” without any distractions. This will help you recognize when your body is tired, allowing you to get a full night’s worth of sleep.

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Article by: UofL Health

UofL Health is a fully integrated regional academic health system with eight hospitals, four medical centers, Brown Cancer Center, Eye Institute, nearly 200 physician practice locations, and more than 1,000 providers in Louisville and the surrounding counties, including southern Indiana. Additional access to UofL Health is provided through a partnership with Carroll County Memorial Hospital. With more than 13,000 team members – physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and other highly-skilled health care professionals, UofL Health is focused on one mission: to transform the health of communities we serve through compassionate, innovative, patient-centered care.

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