Binge-watching TV is a heart health risk, but there's a solution

Past research has warned that sitting for long periods of time may put long-term health at risk, but a new study reveals that some types of sitting are more risky than others. According to researchers with the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, your binge-watching sessions may be putting your heart at risk, an effect that wasn't associated with sitting while at work.

The sitting risk

Concerns over the health effects caused by sitting for long periods of time have given rise to standing desks and warnings to get up and move regularly. Past research has indicated that people who spend hours a day sitting are at risk of dying prematurely, as well as developing various serious long-term health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

These warning has been broadly applied to all types of sedentary habits, whether you're spending hours sitting in a vehicle, at an office desk, or in front of the TV. However, the new study out of Columbia University reveals that not all sitting is equal, at least when it comes to health risks.

Binge-watching and your heart

According to the study, spending hours a day sitting in front of the television may put binge-watchers at risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. The risk increased with the greater number of hours spent sitting in front of the TV — spending four or more hours per day watching television resulted in a 50-percent increase in risk when compared to people who watched less than two hours per day.

However, and as a reassurance for office workers, the study found that people who spent the most time sitting at work had the same health risks as people who sat the least amount at work. Researchers speculate this difference in risk may be due to activity levels: someone at work is likely getting up from their desk regularly, whereas someone binge-watching TV may spend hours lying on the sofa.

Exercise as a solution

Though the scientists warn additional research is necessary, the study indicates that taking breaks to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity, such as a brisk walk, reduced the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, as well as the risk of premature death.

The study found that individuals who watched four or more hours of TV per day (the highest risk group) didn't experience an increase in risk if they performed at

least 150 minutes of exercise every week. The need to remain active during the day remains true for office workers who may face increased risk if they don't get up regularly.