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Don't Watch TV This Way, Experts Warn

Avoid these five mistakes.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

We're in the golden age of TV, they say. Never before has so much content been so good. And with thousands of streaming options, there has never been so much. Binge-watching TV during the pandemic may have kept most of us occupied—and sane—during periods of social isolation, but now it might be a good idea to change your viewing habits. That's because it's possible to watch TV the wrong way, and making any of these five mistakes can leave your body less than golden. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

1

So Much You Forget to Move

young girl using laptop on bed while mom and dad watching TV and not paying attention to her
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Being a couch potato doesn't just affect your weight. A 2019 study found that people who spent more than two hours a day sitting and watching TV had a 70 percent increased risk of developing colorectal cancer at a young age. "Being active can help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works," says the American Cancer Society. Experts recommend that for overall health, all adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) each week. 

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2

Instead of Going to Bed

Young woman sleeping passed out on couch after watching tv with a food coma
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A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Health found that binge-watching TV was associated with a higher risk of dying of inflammatory conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Each added hour of viewing was associated with a 12% increased risk of death. Not only is binge-watching encouraging us to be more sedentary, it can cut into sleep—which alone is a risk factor for several health problems.

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3

Multi-Screen Without Protection

Man using his mobile phone in the bed
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Back in the day, grandmas everywhere warned kids against sitting too close to the TV screen—"you'll go blind!" they warned. That didn't happen, but today experts say that getting too much exposure to blue light can age you faster. A 2019 study published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease found that blue light could damage cells in the brain and eyes. To avoid this, the researchers recommended getting as much natural light as possible, wearing blue-light glasses to block emissions, and limiting your screen time. And it might be a good idea not to multi-screen—watch TV while scrolling your phone or computer—without those blue-blockers.

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4

Too Soon Before Bed

young girl sits in the dark at night, enthusiastically watches TV series on laptop
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On the sleep tip: Research by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that blue light emitted from electronic devices like your computer or LED TV can inhibit the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which can result in poor quality sleep or insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation encourages setting an episode limit and not watching anything action-packed right before bed; the golden rule is to avoid glowing screens of all kinds 30 minutes before turning in. 

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5

While Eating

woman is chewing pizza, while laying on the white sofa. She is watching TV shows, being on blurred background.
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"Distracted eating"—having a meal or snack while glued to your phone or watching TV—can encourage you to overeat. "If you aren't mindful of what's going into your mouth, you don't process that information," says Harvard Medical School. "That means it doesn't get stored in your memory bank. And without a memory of having eaten, you are more likely to eat again sooner than you might have if you ate mindfully." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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