Stop binge-watching by taking a stand

It’s past midnight, well after your usual bedtime, and you’re about to start watching your third straight episode of this crime drama or classic comedy sitting on the couch with a blanket.

It looks like a comfortable way to relax at night. Just try not to do it too long and too often, said Andrea LaCroix, eminent professor and division chief of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego.

“Is binge-watching bad? I’d like to say, ‘No, it’s not bad,'” LaCroix said. “If you care about the cardiovascular effects of sitting for long periods of time, for whatever reason you’re sitting, it’s just important to get in the habit, or create the habit, of moving once in a while.”


A January article in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology that reviewed three previous studies related to television viewing came to a similar conclusion: longer viewing periods may increase the risk of developing a blood clot. .

Research on the health impact of binge-watching is so new that a 2020 article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that reviewed 28 previous studies found no consensus definition of the term. , other than “watching multiple episodes of a TV show in one sitting.”

The key word could be “sitting” or overdoing it. Blood clots can form when something slows or changes blood flow.

After about an hour of sitting, blood and fluids begin to build up in the legs, said Bethany Barone Gibbs, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies sedentary behavior and physical activity. Pooling results in reduced flow and circulation, so blood pressure begins to rise to compensate for the return of blood to the heart.

LaCroix authored a 2019 study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation that found high periods of sedentary time and longer durations were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in older women.

Another 2019 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who watch little or no television and who are very active live about two and a half years longer without coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure than those who often watch television and do not have one. is not active.

But viewing habits aren’t expected to change anytime soon given the proliferation of streaming services and the appeal of multiple TV seasons’ all-you-can-eat menus. Streaming giant Netflix said in 2016 that members preferred to finish an entire season in a week instead of watching one episode a week.

More and more people turned to streaming when stay-at-home guidelines were released at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. According to a survey by Nielsen, the audience measurement company, the average cumulative time Americans spent streaming each week during the second quarter of 2020 was 142.5 billion minutes, compared to 81.7 billion minutes in the during the same period in 2019.

The solution, Gibbs said, is to get up and take a break.

“You don’t have to get rid of your TV. You just have to take a break from your TV viewing,” Gibbs said. “Get up and do the dishes, put away a load of laundry, or pack your lunch. Do something !

Researchers are studying the ideal time to sit still before taking a break. Gibbs suggested walking for a few minutes once an hour and setting reminders through a smartwatch or fitness tracker.

She also recommended setting a time to turn off the screen to preserve a good night’s sleep, and turning off the option on your streaming service to automatically play the next episode.

LaCroix recommended standing for intervals while watching TV or other generally stationary activities like talking on the phone. Drinking water or a cup of tea while watching can also help, as you may need to interrupt bulimia by going to the bathroom.

“A lot of times you get up and start doing something and you don’t want to sit down right away,” LaCroix said. “The hardest part is just changing posture.”

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