woman-talking-on-cell-phone-at-office-desk-mdnMay 5-11 is International Screen Free week.  During this week, children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning OFF digital entertainment and turning ON life! It’s a time to unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore nature, and spend time with family and friends.

For many of us, the idea of spending a week without our TV or our devices can trigger a mini panic attack. We are physically (most of the time) and emotionally attached to our phones, computers and tablets. Many of us feel vulnerable and exposed if we lose our phone or accidently leave it at home.  We have come to expect news, updates and social exchanges in real time, with no delay, 24 hours a day. According to eMarketer, adults are spending an average of 11 hours and 52 minutes every day with media including TV, social media, radio, and internet.

All this time in front of a screen takes its toll. Spending more than four hours a day sitting in front of a television or computer more than doubles your risk of dying from or being hospitalized for heart disease, according to a new study. Even exercise can’t overcome the detrimental effects of too much screen time, according to a study by the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London. The study found that many people have sedentary jobs, and spend five to seven hours sitting at their desk or in their cars during their daily commute. When you add an additional two to four hours of leisure time spent sitting watching TV or surfing the web, most people spend 10 hours a day in a chair or on the couch.

All that time sitting can have dangerous health repercussions. Too much sitting is linked to increased risk of colon cancer, heart disease, overactive pancreas, poor leg circulation, back and neck problems, weak bones, and brain fog…just to name a few.

Too much screen time can also disrupt sleep patterns leading to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, headaches, depression, inattentiveness and delayed reaction times.

This week (or any week of your choosing), we challenge you to take a break from your electronics and go screen free. After work, put the cell phone, laptop and tablet away.  Instead, use the time to get outdoors. Go for a run, walk, hike, bike ride or work in the garden. Reconnect with friends and family in person, read a book, or take the time to start a hobby or learn a new skill.  Your heart and health will thank you for it.

Photo courtesy of womensday.com.