An Active Couch Potato?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • We need to applaud individuals who wake up most days of the week and exercise for an hour. We need to clap for individuals who take their lunchtime hour and go to an exercise class or power walk. We need to give kudos to someone who works all day and then goes to the gym for an hour before going home and finally collapsing for the day. But according to a recent study, even those of us who commit to an hour of daily exercise and then go ahead and sit "on our butt" for most of the rest of the day, have serious health risks. That sedentary profile that occupies much or most of the day, or as the researchers called it, prolonged inactivity, is widespread, unhealthy and mostly undermines brief bouts of exercise. In fact, those of us who sit for most of the day, eight or more hours, have an increased risk of dying, compared to people who sit for less than four hours daily. And that risk holds true EVEN IF you exercised for an hour most days of the week.

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    The Finnish study used embedded flexible electrodes in the shorts that the participants wore. The electrodes tracked contractile activity constantly in the large leg muscles - quadriceps and hamstrings - and the participants kept detailed activity journals for the duration of the study. The assumption was that the "active individuals" or those who exercised for an hour or more daily, would show less muscular inactivity overall. But that was not the observation. There was little difference between days of active exercising plus sitting, and days where the participants only sat and worked. And researchers also observed that on the days when exercise did take place, participants almost seemed to engage purposefully in lighter activities or sitting for the rest of the day - as if the exercise gave them entitlement to then be inactive for hours.


    What's the takeaway message? Despite committing to an exercise program, the biochemical impact of inactivity for many hours is significant and requires additional movement throughout the day. That's why I tell people to get up and move for ten minutes every hour or hour and a half that you sit. Even if you do go to the gym or exercise for an hour daily, consider taking another 20 minute walk once or twice later on in the day, as well as taking the stairs when possible. Do not discount the positive health benefits of an exercise program. But do not assume it then allows you to sit for the rest of the day with no consequences from that sedentary behavior.


    Do you feel you are active throughout the day?Is work getting in the way of exercise or any semblance of fitness?  Please share!!

Published On: April 11, 2012