Having a TV or movie day once in a while won't kill you, but frequent binge-watching ups your changes of developing serious health conditions. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Having a TV or movie day once in a while won’t kill you, but frequent binge-watching ups your chances of developing serious health conditions. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

You’ve just settled in to your well-worn spot on the couch, big bowl of popcorn, chips or other savory snacks and soda by your side, ready for an all-day, TV-watching extravaganza.

But you might want to push pause—according to a new study, your health might be Breaking Bad, too.

In a recent study of people at higher risk of developing diabetes, researchers found every hour spent sitting can increase that risk by 3.4 percent. So sitting through the last season of Mad Men can lead to a 30 percent increased risk, according to studies published in the journal Diabetologia and elsewhere.

The Diabetologia study confirms other firmly-held beliefs among experts, said Robert Selfe, DO, of Spectrum Health Diabetes & Endocrinology.

“I would echo the beliefs, simply because the information is known,” Dr. Selfe said. “We know that individuals at risk, whether it’s a family genetic component, a history of gestational diabetes, metabolic syndrome, are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

“In my mind, this echoes the things we already know, but it puts a focus on our American lifestyle. Sitting on the couch multiple hours a day, I would suspect, whether it’s reading a book, watching television or what have you, all of those things are going to contribute to further risk of diabetes.”

The risk is very real for a growing number of Americans.

According to 2018 statistics from the American Diabetes Association, one in 11 Americans have diabetes. About a quarter don’t know they have the condition, and the majority of them have Type 2 diabetes.

But a day-long The Big Bang Theory marathon probably isn’t a one-way trip to Type 2 by itself, Dr. Selfe said.

“If you’re talking about one day, I’d take (the study) with a grain of salt,” he said. “So this weekend, you binge-watch Breaking Bad for 12 hours, that means, theoretically, in the next five years, you’re going to get diabetes. I think that’s an overstatement of what they’re trying to get at, but it’s kind of for shock value.”

What the study does underscore, Dr. Selfe said, is that our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are taking their toll on our long-term health.

“From my perspective, (the study) confirms what we already know,” he said. “Engaging in regular exercise, being active on a daily basis—which has become more difficult in American society because we have computers, smart phones, the internet and machines to do a lot of the regular work we used to do even 50 or 100 years ago—really has increased that risk.”

But unlike, say, Dexter, this story doesn’t have to have an unhappy ending. The key is all about balance, Dr. Selfe explained.

“You definitely shouldn’t binge-watch and drink soda and eat Cheetos and all these other things that are prolific in American society,” he said. “I think this study, and studies done in the past, all beg toward moderation, and we are not a society of moderation. We super-size all of our foods, and we binge-watch TV at times. The reality is we continue to do less and less on a daily basis. Some of that is out of choice, and some of that is out of our situation. A lot of us sit behind a desk eight to 12 hours a day.

“The bottom line is, people need to engage in moderation, and they need to realize that incorporating activity on a daily basis is markedly impactful across the board, whether we’re talking about heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, cholesterol … across the gamut, activity has been shown to be beneficial for everybody.”

So don’t forget to mix in some actual walking, before you settle in to watch the last season of The Walking Dead.