On your feet, couch potato: Stand or exercise during commercials to decrease sedentary time
01/01/2020 // Zoey Sky // Views

Online streaming services have made it easier to binge-watch full seasons of episodic shows and countless movies, but they have also been contributing to unhealthy lifestyle habits. A recent study reveals that sitting too long while watching a show or movie can increase your risk of conditions linked to inactivity, such as obesity and heart disease.

The findings were published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis and conducted by scientists from the University of Minnesota.

Obesity and heart disease will be the bane of couch potatoes

Who wouldn't want to veg out on the sofa for hours while watching their favorite show? It sure is tempting, but being inactive for a long time is linked to many health risks. For one, being sedentary may cause weight gain. Inactivity is also a risk factor for health conditions like diabetes and blood clots in the legs.

The Minnesota researchers suggest that standing while binge-watching TV shows may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease and obesity from sitting too much. If you really want to watch TV, take care of chores like doing the laundry in between episodes. Researchers also warned that it is important to avoid late-night viewing.

According to Brad Lander, a clinical psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, there's nothing wrong with watching TV. Watching too much TV, however, is where you should draw the line.

He recommends taking regular stretch breaks when you're engaged in sedentary activity, like watching a long movie. Have short exercise breaks every 30 minutes, or watch TV while standing up every so often.


Sophia Tolliver, a family medicine physician at Wexner Medical Center, shares that you need to take a break, even during the middle of an episode or movie. Just press pause, stand up and move around. You don't even have to binge-watch in your living room. Make your TV time healthier by watching your shows on a device while you're on a stationary bike or treadmill at the gym.

While studies concerning the effects of binge-watching on health are still in its infancy, findings have already revealed that inactivity is linked to negative side effects.

Tolliver notes that binge-watching is often accompanied by mindless snacking, which can cause weight gain. Research has found that sitting for too long can increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. This can then increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Related: Get off your bum: Sitting, watching TV for two or more hours per day raises risk of colorectal cancer.)

If you binge-watch on your own, you have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, this is the case for a lot of people who lack social connections or would rather be alone.

Binge-watching also affects sleep quality

Staying up late to finish one more episode or another movie affects sleep quality. A sleep-deprived couch potato has a higher risk of accidents, a lack of coordination, memory deficits, depression and heart problems.

Binge-watching can also cause sleep deprivation if you do it too close to bedtime. The artificial blue light emitted by your TV or phone screen can alter your hormones.

Past studies have revealed that the wavelengths confuse your body into thinking its daytime, which delays the secretion of melatonin. This "sleep" hormone influences your body clock and helps you fall asleep.

Ronald Chervin, a sleep neurologist and director of Michigan Medicine's Sleep Disorders Centers, shares that more patients who wake up in the middle of the night watch TV despite their restlessness. He explains that there's a wakeful element of social interaction to watching TV, which involves people talking and gets your adrenaline flowing.

Furthermore, watching TV when you can't sleep does more bad than good since it makes you more wakeful when you should be resting. Chervin recommends reading a good book instead of watching TV or scrolling through your phone before bed.

Make TV time a social activity and take exercise breaks when watching your favorite show to prevent obesity and being sedentary for too long. Your waistline and heart will be grateful.

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