Modern marathon: the fallout of binge watching

Orange is the new black is a television show that was first released on Netflix and the popularity of it has grown immensely.

Orange is the new black is a television show that was first released on Netflix and the popularity of it has grown immensely. (Photo by Courtney Blok/ The Sheridan Sun)


As much as someone wants to sit around and watch their favourite series through streaming, binge watching may not be consequence free as you may think.

Other than issues like getting caught up in a marathon and not finishing an assignment that’s due tomorrow, binge watching can also impact your health.

Having a variety of shows available at your fingertips with many different streamers means more viewers will remain seated for a long period of time, reducing physical activity.

“Typical Western TV-viewing before the Internet averaged at about four hours per day,” said Dr. Jon Baggaley, a professor at Centre for Distance Education at 
Athabasca University and a psychologist who focuses on the effects of media. “Today it is less, but the amounts of time spent online have increased that to potentially unhealthy proportions.”

Whether it’s watching a couple episodes or a whole season, being inactive can cause subtle changes like a difference in your weight or metabolism.

“Watching TV represents one of the major sedentary lifestyles that our society has experienced for the past many years,” said Dr. Hanh Huynh, a trained immunologist and a senior instructor in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC. “It is well known and accepted that a sedentary lifestyle will lead to becoming overweight then obesity.”

On the extreme end, these issues can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

“Obesity is due to the imbalance between energy intake versus energy expenditure, resulting in excess calories in the body. Excess energy (in the form of excess fat and sugar) will then lead to the development of diabetes,” said Huynh.




According to a survey done by Netflix, 73 per cent of online U.S. adults who stream TV shows at least once a week said that binge watching is consecutively watching two to six episodes of the same series.

“I feel two is a little on the low side to be called binging,” said Sydney Jones, a second-year Visual Merchandising student at Sheridan. She considers watching seven or eight shows binge watching.

“An average season for a lot of TV shows is 14 to 16 or so episodes for the most part, give or take the couple of shows that have at least 20, so that’s about half way through a season,” said Jones.

Matt Byrne, 24, a recent graduate from Sheridan, admitted he considers binge watching more than four episodes and that he tends to binge watch about twice a week.

“Netflix has revolutionized how we watch television. Personally, I think it is for the better,” said Byrne. “If I have two hours before I need to leave the house I can watch two to four episodes of something and it let’s me think about where the story is going while I am at work.”

It’s important to take screen breaks when binge watching as well.

“Getting up for five minutes of mental and physical variety per hour is a good rule of thumb,” said Baggaley.

Although binge watching can promote an unhealthy lifestyle, not everyone who binge watches lives an inactive lifestyle. It’s about balance.

“A healthier lifestyle compromises a balance of a healthier diet (for example, a diet high in fibre, less saturated fat, less red meat, more vegetables, more fruits, more fish, beans, etc.,) and being more physically active,” said Huynh.

“I don’t live an overly active lifestyle, but I don’t consider binge watching a reason for it,” said Byrne. “I work 40 hours a week and when I come home instead of watching random TV for a few hours I watch a story that I am interested in.”

“My lifestyle is busy, half the time the shows are just background noise,” explained Jones.

She said think that binge watching is not a risk because of her own lifestyle, but can imagine how it can be.

“If you didn’t do anything, but sit around on your couch and watch TV all day then yes definitely, it’s a risk. Otherwise as long as you have your priorities set and are smart about it there’s nothing wrong with binging every now and then.”