You probably have a habit that you know isn’t great for you: ending your day watching TV. Many of us assume that we can out-exercise this habit, but new research from the American Heart Association has revealed that unfortunately, this isn’t the case – at least when it comes to avoiding a particular health issue. But here’s what you can do to keep your risk as low as possible if you just can’t give up your favorite show.
According to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017, watching TV ups your risk of developing a blood clot called a venous thromboembolism (VTE), meaning that it occurs in the veins of the legs, arms, pelvis, or lungs. Researchers reviewed data from over 15,000 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study who were between the age of 45 and 64. They found that people who watched TV “very often” had a 1.7 times higher risk of VTE compared to those who watched “seldom” or “never.”
Interestingly, people who got the recommended amount of exercise actually had a slightly higher risk, 1.8 times, when they watched TV very often, compared to exercisers who skipped TV. Although it’s true that being obese increases your risk of blood clots and exercise can help reduce this risk, the researchers found that obesity explained only about 25% of the increase in risk. That means that other factors are at play.
We’d love for you to give up watching TV altogether, particularly if you can fill that time with healthy activities (no, sitting at the computer isn’t any better than watching TV). Or try watching TV only while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. But if you just can’t give up a couple shows a week, there are ways you can minimize your VTE risk.
Try to avoid mindless snacking while in front of the TV. (This can be a major contributor to weight gain.) Second, try to get up and move around regularly. Commercials can be a great cue that you should stand up and get your blood flowing. And you should definitely avoid binge watching several episodes back to back without a break.