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Is Binge Watching Bad for Your Health?

Catch up on your favorite series without compromising your health


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Whether its "Game of Thrones," "Handmaid’s Tale," or a "Star Wars" or "Harry Potter" marathon, with streaming services and constant access to entertainment, we can now watch almost anything we want for a however long we want.

If you sit down for just one episode and find yourself still watching hours later, you’ve probably veered off into binge territory.

You’re not alone. 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 you’re hooked on may seem like the perfect day, but did you know that binge-watching could affect your health?

Here are four things to consider next time you sit down to indulge in the latest addition to your preferred streaming service.

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.

2. Fatigue 
The difficulty in falling asleep after binge-watching may lead to fatigue the next day. Potential effects of fatigue include depression, obesity and decreased work and driving safety, according to the National Safety Council.

3. 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.

4. Back Pain
Sitting in fixed positions for prolonged periods can increase your risk of developing lower back pain.

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.
  • 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.

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

Dr. David Severance is the chief medical officer with UnitedHealthcare of Colorado.

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