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Watching too much TV may increase the risk for serious blood clots, study finds

Getting up and walking around while watching TV can help consumers’ long-term health

Woman on couch watching TV
Photo (c) Catherine McQueen - Getty Images
Several recent studies have highlighted the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, and now a new study conducted by researchers from the European Society of Cardiology identified a link between too much TV watching and blood clots. According to their findings, sitting down and watching TV for several hours in a row – without regularly getting up and taking a break – may increase consumers’ risk for fatal blood clots. 

“Prolonged TV viewing involves immobilization which is a risk factor for venous thromboembolism (VTE). This is why people are encouraged to move around after surgery or during a long-haul flight,” said researcher Dr. Setor Kunutsor.

"In addition, when you sit in a cramped position for long periods, blood pools in your extremities rather than circulating, and this can cause blood clots. Finally, binge-watchers tend to eat unhealthy snacks, which may lead to obesity and high blood pressure, which both raise the likelihood of blood clots.”

Prioritizing TV-watching breaks

The researchers analyzed three earlier studies that included information on more than 131,000 participants over the age of 40. The participants answered questions about their typical TV-watching habits, and the researchers followed up with them over the course of nearly 20 years to monitor their health outcomes. 

“All three studies adjusted for these factors [age, sex, body mass index, and physical activity] since they are strongly related to the risk of VTE; for instance, older age, higher BMI, and physical inactivity are linked with an increased risk of VTE,” Dr. Kunutsor said. “The findings indicate that regardless of physical activity, your BMI, how old you are, and your gender, watching many hours of television is a risky activity with regards to developing blood clots.” 

Ultimately, the study showed that watching TV for at least four hours per day may make VTE 1.35 times more likely, compared with participants who watched less than 2.5 hours per day. 

“If you are going to binge on TV, you need to take breaks,” Dr. Kunutsor said. “You can stand and stretch every 30 minutes or use a stationary bike. And avoid combining television with unhealthy snacking.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope consumers understand the importance of mixing in physical activity with long periods of sitting down and watching TV. That is the best way for consumers to protect their long-term health. 

“Our results suggest that we should limit the time we spend in front of the television,” said Dr. Kunutsor. “Long periods of TV watching should be interspersed with movement to keep the circulation going. Generally speaking, if you sit a lot in your daily life – for example your work involves sitting for hours at a computer – be sure to get up and move around from time to time.” 

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