We're not immune to the occasional Real Housewives marathon on a Sunday afternoon, but a new study published in The Journal of the American Heart Association provides one good reason to cut back on your couch potato tendencies. According to the research, adults who kick back with three or more hours of TV each day may double their risk of premature death from any cause.
In the study, researchers took a look at three sedentary habits—TV viewing, driving, and computer use—in 13,284 Spanish university grads (average age of 37) to track the risk between each activity and all-cause mortality. They monitored the subjects for a median of 8.2 years, while also taking into account other variables that might shorten or extend life, which included a person's age, sex, smoking history, calorie intake, heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, BMI, and physical activity level. Overall, they reported 97 deaths, with 19 cardiovascular-related deaths, 46 cancer-related deaths, and 32 from other causes. While driving and computer use did not increase the odds of premature death, the researchers found that three or more hours of TV viewing per day doubled a person's risk of all-cause mortality, versus watching for just an hour a day or less.
Since they accounted for so many potential confounding factors, the link between all-cause mortality and TV viewing is particularly notable. Researchers mentioned past studies that showed an association between watching the tube and poor cardiometabolic biomarkers (AKA measurable indicators that you might wind up having heart disease, diabetes or a stroke), which may explain their findings, but also suggest that the increase in premature death for television consumption, and not drive time or computer usage, might have to do with how the population decides to spend its leisure time. As we age, we tend to spend more time in a sedentary position—especially doing things like binge-watching Game of Thronesinstead of going for a run.
So, the lesson here? Limit your Netflix time to one or two hours a day max—and make sure you hit the gym, go to yoga class or take a walk around the park first.