The average American spends about five hours a day watching television. An American Time Use Survey summary further breaks these stats down, with some surprising results. It turns out that people in the 15–44 age group watch less TV than individuals 65 and older, who watch about 4 hours of television per day—about 2 hours more than their younger counterparts. Even if you’re personally not watching all that much TV, you probably spend some time relaxing on your sofa, sitting in your favorite chair, or lying in bed after a long day, reading or using your various devices. While there’s nothing wrong with unwinding, your spine shouldn’t have to pay the price. Luckily, there are some things you can do to strengthen your backbone and its related parts while you watch TV or do other passive activities.
No matter how engrossing your TV show or movie is, make an effort to get up and move every 30–45 minutes. Even five minutes of movement may be enough to boost your circulation and give certain spine-supporting muscle groups a break. It may not seem like a big deal, but sitting or resting in the same position for hours on end can overstress some parts of the spine enough to:
• Promote inflammation • Strain spine-supporting muscles • Irritate nerves • Place too much pressure on spinal discs • Aggravate existing spine-related conditions
Go beyond simply walking around during commercials, and make an effort to stay active as you watch your preferred show. One option is to set up a treadmill or elliptical machine in the same room where the TV is located so you can get some exercise as you binge watch. If you’re like most people, you’ll likely end up so engrossed in your show that you won’t even realize you’re also doing something good for your spine.
If you don’t have room for this type of equipment, try sitting during commercials and standing when the show is on, or vice-versa. This way you’ll be getting your blood flowing and you won’t be constantly straining the same parts of your spine.
If you have existing aches and pains related to your spine, consider doing some actual exercises as you watch TV. Even if you don’t have any serious spine pain at the moment, controlled-movement exercises such as yoga or Pilates can ease stress, which is a contributing factor to spine-related pain. Gently work the core muscle groups that take some of the pressure off your spine as you watch your favorite shows. You can combine TV watching with many types of exercise, including:
• Low-intensity stretches • Sit-ups or hip raises • Chair dips • Jumping jacks • Lunges
Note: Check with your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon before doing more demanding exercises if you have existing back or neck problems.
There will be times when you just want to relax and watch TV without doing anything else. When this is the case, you can still do something good for your spine by being mindful of your posture. Aside from doing periodic self-checks of your sitting position to make sure your spinal alignment isn’t off too much, you can also:
• Sit up straight and keep your head above your shoulders • Avoid excessive slouching or leaning • Shift your sitting position regularly so you’re not stressing the same muscles • Avoid craning your neck or leaning forward if you plan to use your devices as you watch TV
Almost everyone watches at least a couple of hours of TV every day, and it can be easy to add activities such as the ones above to increase spinal health as you enjoy your favorite shows. Taking care of your spine every day can prevent injury and pain down the road. The spinal health experts at The Spine Institute can offer a wealth of information about everything from back injury prevention to what to expect if you have a lumbar foraminotomy. Los Angeles residents should call one of our knowledgeable representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.