Is Binging Your Favorite Show Killing You?

September 01, 2018

TV-Watching and Mobility Disability


A study published in the Journal of Gerontology has demonstrated a relationship between time spent watching TV and the development of disabled mobility. Things like requiring a device to ambulate, balance deficit, and difficulty transferring classify as mobility disabilities. These often lead to loss of independence.


With so many more channel options, access to movies, and the ability to “binge watch” whatever we want these days it is very easy to find yourself spending hours in front of the computer or TV. Could all of this time in front of the TV be hurting us? It appears that it could be indeed. The study referenced above supports this conclusion. This particular research study looked at survey data from 134,269 participants aged 50-71. What the researchers found was that respondents that reported watching 3 to 4 hours per day had a 25% increase in the likelihood of developing a mobility disability. Those who reported 5 or more hours per day demonstrated a 65% increased risk of mobility disability. When the time watching TV exceeded 5 hours per day and the time spent exercising was fewer than 3 hours per week, respondents tripled their risk of developing a mobility disability.


Many geriatric patients seek physical therapy in order to help restore their mobility. They may be looking to improve their balance to reduce their risk for falling, to improve their ability to walk within their home and community or to improve their strength to be able to get up from a seated position more easily or maintain their ability to perform leisure activities.


Without exception, the main goal for these patients is maintaining their independence. Developing a mobility disability is a sure-fire way to not only lose independence but increase the likelihood of a serious injury from falling. It is very easy to get “lost” in a show or series of shows and before one realizes it, several hours have passed. For those who live alone or have difficulty getting out, watching TV may become a way to reduce boredom.


Before you throw your TV out with the trash, there is also some good news that came out of this study. If you find yourself in the group of people that watch TV for greater than 5 hours per day, all hope is not lost. Even respondents who spent 5 or more hours per day watching TV were able to offset the rise in risk of mobility disability by being physically active more than 7 hours per week.


So TV watching in itself is not all bad. You can continue to watch the shows, movies, sporting events you like, provided you are also physically active. It is the combination of TV-watching and lack of physical activity that is the death nail. One strategy you might employ is to force yourself to get up and take a short walk or do some calisthenics between shows. Another strategy could be to do some marching in place or sidestepping during each commercial break. A lot of commercial breaks are 2 minutes in duration. There are plenty of commercial breaks during TV shows. That adds up to a lot of exercise over the course of your favorite shows or sporting events. This physical activity would help offset the likelihood of developing a mobility disability.


Study Links TV-Watching to Higher Risk of Later Mobility Disability in Older Adults; PT in Motion; Vol. 9, No. 10, November 2017.


Read the study HERE

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