Binge Watches Beware

By Western Berks on July 17th, 2018

Frequent TV-Watching Comes With A Risk That Can’t Be Ignored

Dedicated binge-watchers beware!  A study has found that regular long periods of television viewing can increase risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE). Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition in which a blood clot forms most often in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm (known as deep vein thrombosis, DVT) and travels in the circulation, lodging in the lungs (known as pulmonary embolism, PE). Another scary part? The risk of venous thromboembolism isn’t reduced by increased levels of physical activity. So regardless of how active you are when you are off the couch, the risk of venous thromboembolism still silently lurks.

The study tracked the television viewing and physical activity habits of 15,792 participants aged 45-64 over a series of surveys from 1987 until 2011. For those that struggle with math, that’s a 24 year long research study! Participants were followed up with every 3 years during the study. Researchers excluded participants who reported baseline VTE or anticoagulant use.

Participants were asked to rate their television viewing habits during leisure time as “never,” “seldom,” “sometimes,” “often,” or “very often” at baseline, visit 3 (1993), and visit 5 (2011). Researchers tracked estimates of physical activity, demographic variables and body mass index (BMI). Results were published in The Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis. Highlights of the results are below.

  • Among all participants, 18.6% reported watching television “seldom,” 46.8% reported watching “sometimes,” 26.5% reported watching “often,” and 8.1% reported watching “very often.”
  • Results showed a positive correlation between frequency of television viewing and VTE incidence
  •  Participants who watched television “very often” had a 1.71 times higher risk of VTE than those reporting “seldom” watching television.
  • The relationship of VTE risk to television viewing remained in place despite levels of physical activity.
  • BMI did play a role. Obese individuals who reported watching television “very often” were found to have a 3.7 times higher risk of VTE than normal-weight individuals who reported watching television “seldom.”

The relationship between sedentary behavior and poor health may be well-known, but authors of this study believe they’ve added a new dynamic; the inability of physical activity to counteract the risk for VTE caused by prolonged sitting. These results echo findings in a study from 2017 that concluded that risk of a mobility disability increased relative to television-viewing time, regardless of hours spent in physical activity.

For those that are dedicated TV viewers, why not get some physical activity while you watch? Our editor’s favorite way to get her TV fix is to watch while she does cardio at the gym. Your workout will breeze by AND you won’t have missed a minute of your favorite show! Most gyms offer a variety of TVs that you can watch while using any of their equipment. If you’re not a gym goer, break up the long periods of sitting by doing aerobics or yoga during commercials. Developing behaviors that maintain good health is an important part of overall health and wellness, and it’s never too late to get started!