There’s been tons written about the negative effects of too much digital screen time on children. Research has shown that it’s bad for their developing brains, increases their risks of childhood obesity tenfold and can even damage their social development. So, it’s not that big of a stretch to assume that the same can be said for adults.
I think we all intuitively know that too much screen time can’t be good for us. But as a gym owner, I wanted to know more specifically about how our health and fitness might be impacted by all the time we spend staring at a screen. Here are the basics of what I found.
- First off, here’s a scary statistic. The average adult in America spends about 11 hours a day looking at a screen and checks their phone every 10 minutes. That means that we spend much more than half of our awake time on a computer or mobile device or watching TV. Wow! For some, much of that screen time is related to work, so it can be hard to bring those numbers down. But many others are consuming all that digital media as part of their leisure time.
- We’re sitting down for most of the time we’re on our screens. Being sedentary for many hours a day increases your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. One study suggested that people who spend more than 4 hours a day in front of a computer are twice as likely to die or be hospitalized for heart disease — even if they exercise regularly.
- All digital screens emit blue light which over time will cause serious damage to your eyes in the form of computer vision syndrome. Screen time exhausts your eyes and brings on irritating, dryness and blurred vision. One report predicts that by 2050 half of the world will need glasses because of all of the screen time in our lives.
- Prolonged exposure to blue light also inhibits your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. If your body doesn’t make enough melatonin it’s harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. The effects of blue light on sleep are even greater for people who wind down at the end of the day on their phones for social media.
- A study in Preventive Medicine Reports showed a significant association between high amounts of screen time and depression. Research published in a journal by the American Psychological Association showed that people who spend more time behind a screen, particularly on social media, are less happy. Too much time on social media can skew our perception of reality and leave many people feeling inadequate.
Everything I read led me to the conclusion that going on a screen time diet would be a good thing for all of us. While it probably isn’t realistic for any of us to limit screen time to the “safe” window of 2 hours a day, I think there’s lots of room for cutting back. Less time behind a screen leaves more time for the things that will add to your life and health like real interaction with your family and friends, time spent outside in nature, restful sleep and of course, exercise.