Following recent research which has shown too much time spent sitting down at work is bad for our health, a new US study has now found that hours spent in front of the television could also have a negative impact on health outcomes, by increasing the chance of developing potentially fatal blood clots.
With watching television the most common sedentary behaviour around the world, researchers from the University of Minnesota set out to assess the possible link between the activity and the risk of developing a common and potentially fatal blood clot in the vein called venous thromboembolism (VTE).
One type of VTE is known as deep vein thrombosis, where the blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs, and in the past has often been associated with flying when individuals may be sitting for long periods of time.
VTE can cause serious problems and be potentially fatal if they become dislodged and travel through the blood stream to block off another vein somewhere else in the body.
Although a 2016 Japanese study already found that those who spent hours in front of the TV showed an increased risk of suffering a VTE, the new study is the first to look at risk in a Western population, known to be more prone to blood clotting conditions than people of Asian descent.
For the research the team analysed data from 15 158 Americans aged between 45 and 64, asking participants about their health status, smoking status, weight, and how much exercise they engaged in.
Participants were also asked about the frequency of their TV viewing, responding “never or seldom,” “sometimes,” “often” or “very often.”
The results showed that those who watched television “very often” had more than 1.7 times the risk of suffering from a VTE compared to those who “never or seldom” watched TV.
Even getting enough exercise was not enough to counteract the negative effects of hours of sedentary time warned lead author Yasuhiko Kubota, with participants who met the recommended level of physical activity still at a higher risk of VTE if they watched TV very often, compared to those who watched TV seldom or never.
Kubota now advises that avoiding frequent TV viewing, as well as increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight, could be beneficial to prevent VTE.