Why you should rethink your Netflix binge

Why you should rethink your Netflix binge


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SALT LAKE CITY — If you're one of Netflix's 40 million subscribers (or one of the many others who mooch off one of those subscriber's accounts) you've probably done your fair share of Netflix binging.

While it's becoming more and more common, a new study from the journal JAMA Psychiatry published findings that the growing popularity of binging on your favorite TV shows on Netflix and other streaming sites isn't so great for your cognitive function as you age.

While it might be common knowledge that being a couch potato isn't a healthy behavior, the study is one of the first to find a definitive link between high amounts of television viewing and brain function.

The study evaluated 3,247 adults over the span of 25 years and assessed their "television viewing and physical activity" habits. The results of the study indicated adults with high amounts of television viewing (more than three hours a day) were almost two times "more likely to have poor cognitive performance" than active adults with low television viewing habits.

Considering that the average American starts these unhealthy television habits early with American children — already at an average of "three to five hours of television every day," according to the Utah Department of Health — the results of the study are disconcerting. The Utah Department of Health's "Check Your Health" initiative also notes that "adults are just as affected, especially in regards to web-enabled cell phones and computer time at work."

But before you cancel that Netflix subscription, the results of the study weren't solely related to high amounts of television viewing. Instead it's a combination of those television habits with low physical activity (which is often a result of large amounts of television viewing) as "low physical activity … was significantly associated with poor performance" on the assessments given to the participants of the study.

Although it may not be good news for all the binge watchers out there (anyone else watch a whole season of Gilmore Girls in one sitting?), it's just one more reason to follow your doctor's advice and stay physically active and exercise (as well as set that New Year's resolution to get in shape after the holidays too).

Kenzie Inman is a graduate of the University of Utah and a freelance writer and editor. Contact her at kenzieinman@gmail.com.

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