Screen time is way up since the global pandemic began. While it’s an understandable diversion from life during COVID-19, it’s problematic when it comes to the rest of your health. A new study from scientists at Arizona State University shows the longer someone stares at a TV, phone, or computer screen during the day, the worse their health habits are.
Interestingly, when researchers broke down the screen use and health behaviors of the roughly 1,000 study participants, they found watching TV was linked to the worst eating habits, while smartphone use was most directly correlated to poor sleep. All screen use has some negative health consequences, says Christopher Wharton, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition at Arizona State and co-author of the study, but if you’re going to pick your battles, start by limiting the Netflix binges and shutting off your phone an hour before bed. “Different devices matter for different health behaviors, and we can make more targeted health improvements if we think about use of particular devices,” he says.
Getting away from your devices during COVID takes discipline. “For those who are having to spend more time in front of screens right now for work, such as myself, I take every opportunity to move away from them when work is done,” says Wharton. “I go play with my kids, work out outdoors, do woodworking projects, and pursue new COVID hobbies—I’m learning the violin. All of that delivers way more value for me personally than watching TV, especially after spending my whole day staring at a screen.”
Meanwhile, when you do choose to zone out in front of the tube, keep a bowl of fruit on your coffee table and pre-sliced carrots and cucumbers in a ziplock bag in your fridge so you can pull it out when the game is on. Mindlessly noshing on an entire bowl of fresh veggies with salsa dip vs. a bowl of chips with sour cream dip will save you about 2,000 calories.
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