Sometimes rain, sick days, and injury can relegate you to the couch for a few hours. In those moments, TV is a welcome escape, but binge-watching has many downsides: It constricts blood flow, increases inflammation, and can even make you eat more high-calorie foods. Watch wisely, and you can minimize the effects.
Dramas and other anxiety-inducing genres can put you in a stressed state even after you peel your eyes away from the screen, says Paul Bolls, Ph.D., associate director for the Center for Communication Research at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Save binges for lighthearted picks like comedies, which trigger a release of feel-good dopamine in the brain.
The shows you consume can also change the way you view the real world, Bolls says. For example, a bout of reality TV may make gossip seem more acceptable. To avoid toxic mindset shifts, he recommends watching with a friend or SO to keep you grounded.
You’ll want to change your body position every 15 minutes to relieve pressure on your organs, muscles, and nerves, Bolls says. Walking for five minutes every hour will restore circulation, adds Arlen Guerrero, complex physical therapy manager at Equinox locations in Miami. To minimize distracted snacking, only graze during these breaks (or not at all).
The bottom line:
Limit your viewing to three hours. At that point, your nervous system will need a break from the arousal, especially if you streamed something suspenseful or action-driven, Bolls says. Follow it with at least 30 minutes of screen-free activity, like reading a book or doing yoga.
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