Binge-Watching's Effect on the Body
This summer, the average American has been more likely to cue up something on Netflix than to crack open a book, go to the movies or even just go outside. Such are the findings from a new survey conducted by Miner & Co. Studio, a research and consulting firm that has been studying binge-watching behavior for years now. And hey, we're not saying that there's anything wrong with enjoying a mammoth TV-watching session on your couch. But it can take its toll on your body in more ways than you may think. So here's some expert advice on how to do it without hurting yourself.
Correct Your Posture
Sitting and slouching curves your spine and shrinks your lung capacity by a third. Which means you get less oxygen, causing a decrease in mental focus and cramped muscles. The solution? Place a pillow behind your lower back—the lumbar support will naturally open up your lungs. Or you can kick your feet up in a reclined position, says Galen Cranz, an ergonomics expert and University of California professor. That gives your spine the natural S-shape it has when you're standing.
Stand Up Between Episodes
According to data published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, getting up every 30 to 60 minutes (whether you're binge-watching or simply working at your desk) will keep your metabolism and heart rate from dropping. If you want a pop of energy, walk up some stairs or do ten push-ups, but just standing and walking around the room once will get your circulation going.
It's easy to get engrossed in what you're watching, but you should stay hydrated. And as a bonus, it will force you to go to the bathroom more often, meaning you'll have to get up (see above). Limit alcohol and soda and just grab a glass of water. You, like most Americans, probably aren't drinking enough of the stuff anyway.
Avoid Binging at Night
Recent research by Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital has found that prolonged exposure to the "blue light" emitted from TVs, tablets and computer screens can inhibit the release of melatonin, the hormone your body produces to put you to sleep. "We found the body's natural circadian rhythms were interrupted," says one of the study's authors, Anne-Marie Chang, PhD. And it doesn't just make it harder to fall asleep, it also increases your sleepiness the next day. Poor-quality sleep, she says, can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Thankfully, daytime binge-watching hasn't been found to affect your sleep cycle.