Here’s a quick check-in about binge-watching and how it can mess with health. Don’t fret that this piece is all doom and gloom. Not here. Not from us. Ever. We’re all about putting smiles on faces.

First, we'll lay some nasty research on you about the negatives of being glued to a couch until the sun rises. Then we'll do a full 180 and give you practical tips to make your binge-watching experience a healthy one you can enjoy guilt free. Since binge-watching is one of our favorite pastimes, we won't ruin it for you, but rather enhance it!

Binge-Watching Defined

A session of binge-watching, also called binge-viewing, is “the act of watching multiple episodes of a TV series in succession.” This source points out that the act of binging on a show usually lasts several hours.

Therapy Works, 2019

Health Impacts to Ponder

A man in moody room holding his laptop

Well, anyone who has binge-watched knows it’s easy to get swept up in the moment. Like tuning one episode after another. And doing it so long into the night. Gotcha! These producers and writers certainly can create cliffhangers. Dang, they got you again!

Too much sedentary time

Sure, a good couch is the next best thing to dying and going to a paradise made of clouds. But prolonged sedentary time is linked to all-cause mortality and a slew of nasty illnesses. Nearly all our muscle aches, like back and neck pain, are sedentary-related issues. Take that into account when going all-in on the Friday binge.

Too much mindless munching

A young woman with headphones eating popcorn

Good story-telling requires that our hero gets into all kinds of trouble. This conflict fires up our stress hormones. We subconsciously seek relief from these effects, and chewing on something is part of that mechanism—especially if it's rich in carbohydrates. We'll blindly reach into a bag of chips over and over without batting an eye if we're not careful.

Too much Sleep deprivation

As all binge-watchers know, sacrificing sleep for a show is rarely worth it (yea, guilty as charged). Sleep is the main pillar of health. Get a good night's sleep and the world is your oyster. Have a bad night, and the day that follows is a throwaway.

Too much dopamine

The gotcha is that bingeing activates your brain’s reward center, flooding you with dopamine, making you feel good. Ah, but there’s a shadow lurking behind that goody-good, lovely feeling. Yup, though different, the let-it-all-go whisper is a softer side of serious addictions.

6 Tips to stay healthy when binge-watching

A couple ready to binge watch an entire season on Netflix

Hey, we hope we're not starting to sound like your dad yelling from across the house to turn off the TV after midnight. It's possible to have your cake and eat it too, when it comes to binge watching—if you integrate a few healthy habits when doing so.

  1. Keep healthy snacks on hand to avoid mindless munching. Opt for things like veggies and hummus, fruit, or nuts instead of chips and candy.
  2. Take physical activity breaks and kitchen or bathroom trips between episodes to get a little movement in.
  3. Schedule in some physical activity before or after your binge-watching session to counterbalance the sedentary activity.
  4. Switch up your binge-watching with other forms of entertainment, like briefly writing on your journal to prevent excessive screen time.
  5. Remember to stay hydrated. It's easy to get dehydrated when binge-watching without even realizing it.
  6. Set a hard stop time. Sleep is more valuable than finding out if "Timmy dies". We'll sound like dad on this one, but this one is crucial!

Why you should add physical activity breaks between episodes

A young, muscular man doing light exercise at home

It will help you prevent back and neck pain

We've explored the causes of back pain in detail before. It's actually quite simple: prolonged sitting weakens your support muscles. This makes it more likely to strain and sprain a muscle. Move between episodes to engage these important fibers.

It can improve your viewing experience

Elevating your heartbeat and breath helps you be more alert and engaged with your show. When you get up and do a little exercise, like squats, lunges or hops, your system will spring back to life. Oxygen flows to your brain, helping you retain more of what you watch (if you don't remember anything, did you really watch that episode?).

They will boost your self image

People rarely feel good about binge-watching. It's intuitively not the healthiest activity we can do. However, adding physical activity breaks into the mix makes it a more gratifying experience. The impact these healthy breaks will have on your self-image can counteract the negatives that such a sedentary activity may cause.

Wrapping up

We believe it's possible to binge-watch responsibly. As long as you add in physical activity breaks, choose healthier snacks, and make sure you prioritize sleep, it doesn't have to be an unhealthy activity. Don't let the guilt of a sedentary activity ruin your enjoyment—take steps to make it more balanced and positive for yourself. Happy watching (just no spoilers)!

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