Your favorite hobby may be hurting your health
Binge-watching, the act of watching two or more episodes of the same television program back-to-back in one sitting, may be harmless in small doses. But spending your daylight hours in front of a screen every day could be putting your health at risk.
“Whether you’re in front of a television, a computer screen or any other device, staying indoors for several days at a time isn’t the best pathway to good health,” says Dr. Prentiss Taylor, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago and medical director of Advocate at Work fitness/wellness coaching. That’s because there are no healthy substitutes for an active lifestyle, a healthy diet and sunshine.
If you believe there’s no harm in avoiding the outside elements for days at a time or that it’s safe to lounge on your couch for hours, Dr. Taylor warns you to beware – even if you’ve exercised 30 to 60 minutes that day. The more you hole up, the more likely you are to experience ill effects from the following three health hazards:
- Too many motionless minutes: Sitting is the new smoking, and standing is, too. Studies show that the average person who spends long periods of time watching TV or other sedentary activities has an increased risk for colon cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. For every two hours without movement, these risks increase between six and eight percent.
- Mindless snacking: It’s hard to stop after one salty chip or sweet morsel when you’re paying attention. It’s even harder to stay in control when your focus is on an exciting storyline. Mindless snacking often leads to weight gain and obesity, which can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, breathing problems and a variety of cancers.
- Electric lighting 24/7: You can’t replace the sun. Exposure to natural sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which works to control your appetite, sleep schedule and energy levels. Yet being low on vitamin D can do greater harm than leaving you feeling hungry and fatigued. People with a vitamin D deficiency may experience bone pain, muscle weakness, increased blood pressure and/or depression. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to serious health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction and heart disease.
Given our busy schedules and the high volume of quality content available at the click of a button, it’s easy to see why 61 percent of TV streamers binge-watch regularly. However Dr. Taylor urges couch potatoes to reverse this trend and protect their health by watching less TV and taking several short walks outside during daylight. On days when the weather is bad, he suggests sticking to your step count by making a walking path indoors.
About the Author
Cassie Richardson, health enews contributor, is regional coordinator on Advocate Aurora Health's Public Affairs team. She has more than 10 years of experience in health care communications, marketing, media and public relations. Cassie is a fan of musical theater and movies. When she’s not spreading the word about health and wellness advancements, she enjoys writing fiction.