Is Binge-Watching Affecting Your Health?

With a wide variety of video streaming services available today, viewers can watch TV shows and movies whenever, wherever and for however long they want, which has led to an increase in binge-watching.

In a 2017 study of people 18 to 25 years old, more than 80 percent identified as binge-watchers.

Watching a full season of a show may seem like a fun way to spend your time, but did you know that binge-watching can affect your health? Here are four things to consider the next time you sit down to indulge in the latest episode of your favorite series:

  1. Difficulty Falling Asleep
    Researchers have found that binge-watching can cause “pre-sleep arousal.” That means physical and mental activity, like a pounding heart rate or intense thinking, may keep you awake. Your body and brain may require a cool-down period to process unfolding dramas, complex plots and complicated characters.
  1. Fatigue
    The difficulty in falling asleep after binge-watching may lead to fatigue the next day, the study suggests. According to the National Safety Council, the potential effects of fatigue include depression, obesity and decreased work and driving safety.
  1. Cardiovascular Disease
    Spending long periods in a sitting or reclining posture might be associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Research has also linked too much sitting to an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer, the Mayo Clinic said.
  1. Back Pain
    Sitting in fixed positions for prolonged periods can increase your risk of developing lower back pain, a study says.

Here are some healthier alternatives for catching up on the latest season of your favorite series.

  • Work out while you watch. The American Heart Association suggests walking or jogging on a treadmill, lifting weights or doing yoga while watching television.
  • Take a break. Consider pressing pause on binge sessions with 10-minute activities like walking or playing with a pet. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate-intensity physical activities such as brisk walking.
  • Use TV time to stretch. Stretching major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders can improve flexibility and your ability to fully move your joints, according to the Mayo Clinic. Warm up with moderate activity such as light walking first to help avoid injury.

Binge-watching every once in a while is probably not going to lead to long-term problems. As with most things, moderation is key.

Originally published in the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom.

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