Since the introduction of Netflix, Hulu, and DVR-ing in recent years, binge watching has emerged as a popular and prevalent phenomena in today’s life. You, yourself, might have found yourself captive of the auto play feature after watching the ending of an episode from your favorite 90s sitcom. Of course, you always start off by telling yourself that you will just watch one more episode. The reality is often that before you know it, the sun has set, the streetlights have turned on, and it’s well past time for bed.
Technology, such as the emergence of Netflix, has become a huge force in making it easier to become even more sedentary with an already sedentary lifestyle. Over the years, it has become very apparent that people are less physically active. In fact, a recent study found that only one in three children are physically active every day and only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week (National Association for Sport and Physical Education; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Instead of playing sports or participating in physical activities such as biking or walking, more people are choosing to stay in and watch television (Biddle, Gorely, Marshall, Murdey, & Cameron, 2004). If that describes you, don’t worry – you are not alone. A majority of us have simply stopped moving as much as we should. Not moving and not staying active has several negative consequences. In fact, it has been commonly said that sitting is the new smoking in today’s generation. People who live sedentary lifestyles are at increased rate for a variety of health illnesses and conditions, including increased cancer risk, increased cardiovascular disease risk, and mood disorders such as depression, (Thorp, Owen, Neuhaus, & Dunstan, 2011).
Sedentary behaviors are also linked to weight gain (Must & Tybor, 2000). A major correlate of weight gain is excessive television watching, also known as binge watching. Watching television for long periods of time is linked to increased snacking, unhealthy eating, and caloric intake (Thorp, Owen, Neuhaus, & Dunstan, 2011). Similarly, people who watch a lot of television are more likely to eat foods enriched in fat and carbs, which contributes to weight gain (Robinson & Killen, 2001; Coon, Goldberg, Rogers, & Tucker, 2001). Specifically, a study has shown watching television increases your risk of becoming overweight or obese by 23% and developing diabetes by 14% (Hu, Li, Colditz, Willett, & Manson, 2003).
Adding or increasing your physical active has many health benefits:
- People who are physically active have also reported experiencing less stress, having better sleep, and having increased life satisfaction (Fox, 1999; Penedo & Dahn, 2005).
- Active people are also less likely to have health concerns, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (Warburton, Nicol, & Bredin, 2006), and higher self-esteem and overall happiness (Taylor, Sallis, & Needle, 1985).
- Staying physically active actually helps save money. Physically active individuals had lower annual direct medical costs than did inactive people. (Pratt, Macera, & Wang, 2000).
How Can I Increase My Physical Activity?
Being physically active does not have to break the budget or even require extra time set aside in your daily schedule. There are a variety of ways that you can incorporate physical activity in your daily life and increase your overall activity level each day. For example, when you are faced with the decision to take the stairs or the elevator, try taking the stairs. It may not seem much at the moment, but taking the stairs daily or when you have the option to will eventually add up. Moreover, making the decision between the stairs and elevator does not have to be an all or nothing decision. If taking the stairs proves to be a challenge, try taking one or two flights of stairs and continue the rest of your journey on the elevator. There’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps!
Another way to increase your physical activity level is by deliberately parking your car a further distance away from the market door. This is a great opportunity to add extra steps to your day and get your heart rate pumping. Similarly, you can also deliberately take the long route when walking to work or school, or add a couple laps when shopping at the mall.
If you do find yourself trapped in an endless marathon of Friends, it’s still not too late to decrease sitting time and increase physical activity. You can try walking in place or even just standing during commercials. Or, another option is eating healthier snacks, such as apples and peanut butter or unbuttered popcorn.
Written by Trey V. Dellucci and Sophie Mir
For other simple tips on how to make small changes to increase your physical activity and better your health, please see:
* Television image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
* Walking up stairs image courtesy of a454 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Coon K, Goldberg J, Rogers B, Tucker K. Relationships between use of television during meals and children’s food consumption patterns. Pediatrics [serial online] 2001;107:e7. Internet: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/107/1/e7. (accessed 15 October 2003).
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National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The Fitness Equation: Physical Activity + Balanced Diet = Fit Kids. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1999.
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Robinson TN, Killen J. Obesity prevention for children and adolescents. In: Thompson J, Smolak L, eds. Body image, eating disorders and obesity in youth: assessment, prevention and treatment. 2001.
Taylor, C. B., Sallis, J. F., & Needle, R. (1985). The relation of physical activity and exercise to mental health. Public Health Rep, 100(2), 195-202.
Thorp, A. A., Owen, N., Neuhaus, M., & Dunstan, D. W. (2011). Sedentary Behaviors and Subsequent Health Outcomes in Adults: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies, 1996–2011. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 41(2), 207-215. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2011.05.004
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/healthy_people/hp2010.htm.
Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801-809. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.051351