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Fitness Facts: Screen time and physical health

By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

Have you ever considered how much time you and your family spend on screen time?

Connie Colbert

From our phones and gaming systems to our computers and televisions, screens are everywhere. They are in our offices, bedrooms, living rooms, outdoor spaces, cars, pockets, bathrooms and purses. While these devices can be helpful in our everyday life, too much of them can cause problems.

We often disengage from someone or something important and focus on the text, the movie, the email or the social media post. We often find ourselves sucked into the virtual world without realizing the beauty all around us.

What are you missing out on? A relationship with a child or significant other? Exercise? Hobbies?

Maintaining healthy habits can be hard when you spend a lot of time using screens. There are many health and wellness benefits that can be gained by putting that phone down, limiting screen time and focusing on the life around us.

You can improve your physical health by:

  • Preventing obesity and conditions that are linked to excess weight. Such conditions include Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Freeing more time for exercise and play. You may find that you can use physical activity to fill new gaps in your schedule.
  • Getting more sleep. People who watch more TV tend to have a harder time falling or staying asleep. They can feel tired and snack more often to make up for lost hours of sleep.
  • Cutting calories and unhealthy eating habits. Snacking or eating meals in front of the TV can cause mindless eating, causing you to eat larger portions. When you eliminate distractions, you pay more attention to your body and its signals when it’s full.
  • Preventing chronic neck and back pain.Too much screen time can lead to poor posture, causing chronic neck, shoulder and back pain.

Preventing vision issues

Looking at a screen for extended periods of time can cause “computer vision syndrome.” The symptoms: strained, dry eyes, blurred vision and headaches.

  • Decreasing screen time allows more time for play and creative activities.
  • Less screen time can result in better face-to-face social skills.
  • Putting down your phone and going outside or doing an activity you enjoy can be a mood booster.
  • Building community and being part of your surroundings can help you feel connected, thus improving health.

Suggestions and studies from Mayo Clinic Health System include:

  • “Families who eat meals together tend to be healthier. Turning off electronics during meals or family time eliminates distractions. Children from families who eat together also show better academic scores.”
  • “Find events in your community. Time spent using devices instead can be used for volunteering, joining a sports team or connecting time with a spiritual group.”

Technology is certainly useful and necessary in many instances, but monitor your total screen time and find ways to limit those hours.

Take a break and enjoy the life around you! Your body will reward you with improved health.