Binge-watching is now a huge part of our entertainment culture. Almost everyone has binged a 13- or 22-episode TV season in a matter of a few days. But is this habit really healthy for you? Science says no.
In general, being sedentary, or stationary, for just more than two hours at a time during the day can lead to harmful health effects. Seventy percent of U.S. consumers binge-watch shows, with millennials (people aged 14-25) stream more shows than watch traditional TV shows. Sitting in place for just two hours or more can increase risk of obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels. A Mayo Clinic study even found that adults who spent more than four hours a day stationary could lead to a huge 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease.
So just like sitting down all day at work, binge-watching has similar risks. In addition, binge-watching can cut into sleep hours, which can lead to even more health problems. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has even said that the streaming platform's biggest competitor is sleep — not other similar services. Studies have shown that insufficient sleep is linked to heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity. Sleep deprivation can also lead to lower immunity, which can leave you open to contracting bacterial and viral infections like the common cold.
Another smaller risk is eye strain. Staring at a screen for several hours at a time can lead to tired eyes, headaches and double vision. This condition is rarely serious, but it can be irritating. When your eyes feel tired, you should probably give them a rest instead of continuing on to the next episode.
However, these risks don't mean you can't binge-watch your favorite shows. But being aware of them can make your habit much more healthier and safer for you. If you want to binge, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
1. If you can, limit the session to two or three hours.
2. Take a stretch break for 10 to 15 minutes each hour.
3. Sit on an exercise ball or rotate standing and sitting rather than lazing on the couch.
4. Remember to look away from the screen often and refocus your eyes on something else.
5. Don't let your binge-watching continue too far past your bed time.