The Science of the Couch Potato

Dr Gary Imm Blog

It is becoming more and more evident that prolonged inactivity, whether because of a desk job or just relaxing in front of the TV is not good for your health. Sitting for most of the day has been linked with:

  • increased risk of heart disease
  • slow metabolism
  • weight gain
  • high cholesterol and blood pressure
  • higher blood sugar

Interestingly enough, even those who regularly work out, but then spend the majority of the rest of their day sitting, are not spared from the health risks of being a “couch potato.” A couple of recent health studies have targeted this group of “active couch potatoes,” who diligently work out for a half hour to an hour almost every day, yet have desk jobs or lifestyles that involve sitting for most of the rest of their day. Unfortunately, the workouts did not appear to reverse the effects of prolonged inactivity. Obviously, any physical activity is good for you and your heart, but the fact of the matter is that working out for a half hour leaves a large portion of the day sedentary. In fact, those who worked out seemed to factor that in and were less likely to take the stairs or take a walk over a lunch break because they had already clocked in their workout time.

Depending on your profession, you may end up with spending much of your day in a desk chair, cubicle, etc., however, there are some easy changes you can make to get up and get moving throughout the day.

  • Take at least one break an hour. It doesn’t need to be long–just get out of your chair, stretch, fill up your water bottle, or deliver a message in person to a coworker, rather than shooting an email to the office next door.
  • Take the stairs in and out of the office.
  • Take a short walk over your lunchbreak.
  • Get up and stretch every so often–this will help with any tightness in your back as well.
  • Take your phone calls standing up.
  • Use an exercise ball instead of a desk chair. If this is too much, just replace your desk chair with the ball for a short period of time every day–it strengthens your core and keeps your moving.
  • Talk with your employer about a stand-up work station or treadmill work stations at the office. It may be a long shot, but it also may be worth the try–studies are conclusive that active, healthy employees are more productive.

Even some of these smaller changes have proven to reverse the ill effects of sitting all day long. Let us kn0w: how do you remain active in a job that requires a lot of sitting?