Body & Fitness

How your Netflix habit could be affecting your health

The longer you spend watching TV, the more likely you are to be overweight and at risk of other health problems.

With Netflix, Neon and Lightbox so readily available, there are very few among us who would be unfamiliar with concept of binge watching.

In fact, you could argue that it’s a behavior that is being actively encouraged, with many of your favourite shows dropping in one giant block online.

But these seemingly innocent (though admittedly anti-social) binge sessions could be doing us even more harm than we first thought.

The University of Queensland (UQ) conducted a study on almost 2000 participants and found the more TV they watched, the more likely they were to put on weight, smoke and be inclined towards depressive mental states.

And the older you are, the worse it is.

The study was led by UQ School of Public Health PhD candidate Natasha Reid, who focused on the viewing habits of participants in the age range of 47–85-year-old, finding they were some of the hardest hit by excessive TV viewing.

And if you think this is bad news, it turns out the information was collected before Netflix was even available – meaning a more recent study could potentially reveal even worse health implication as a result of weekly binge watching.

But why do they have to make House of Cards so damn good?

“There’s definitely evidence to say that we really do need to be reducing and interrupting how long we’re sitting,” Natasha Reid told The West this week.

“Even if you don’t change how much you’re sitting overall, doing it in smaller bouts will be better for you.”

The study also found that less than 10% of people watch less than 5 hours of television a week and almost 1/3 of people watch up-to 20 hours of telly a week.

And if all that is not bad news enough – binge watching has also been linked with blood clots.

Researchers from Osaka University in Japan warn that watching TV for hours can increase the risk of blood clots in the lungs.

During the study, scientists examined the viewing habits of 86,000 over the course of nine years.

They found that watching TV for five or more hours a day made people more than twice as likely to die of fatal pulmonary embolism (PE) than those watching less than two and a half hours a day.

And for every extra two hour chunk of TV, the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism (PE) increased by 40%.

So is Game of Thrones actually killing us? Professor Mark Harris is a doctor and spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. He says that the issue is more about the sitting than the TV.

“We know that seditionary behaviour is unhealthy. Certainly sitting for more than eight hours a day is unhealthy,” he says.

“Sedentary behaviour is associated with increased mortality and diabetes risk. Prolonged periods of sitting are also associated with leg clots,” he says.

Dr Harris also notes that behaviours associated with binge-watching TV might compound the negative health outcomes. “One of the things about TV watching is that we’re not just sedentary, we’re likely to be snacking at the same time,” he says.

While the health risks of binge-watching TV are evident, Dr Harris says that there is no need to ditch Netflix altogether.

“Obviously watching TV is a good way to relax. People enjoy it,” he says.

So what can we do to minimise the risks? Dr Harris says that it is best to limit the amount of time we spend sitting down. So if you have a desk job that keeps you sitting down for large chunks of the day, going home to sit in front of the TV isn’t ideal.

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