Have you ever heard of the term "active couch potato"? It may seem like a contradiction, but it's a real phenomenon that many of us may be guilty of. A new study has shed light on the risks of being an active couch potato and the importance of incorporating light activity throughout the day, even if we meet recommended exercise guidelines.
Let's take a closer look at the study's findings and how we can avoid falling into the trap of being a sedentary "couch spud."
Sitting all day is unhealthy: A new study reveals that many people who commit to regular exercise but spend the rest of the day sitting could still be at risk of health problems. The study involved over 3,700 men and women in Finland and found that those who exercised for 30 minutes a day but then sat for the rest of the day elevated their blood sugar, cholesterol, and body fat levels.
Stand up and move around: The study also found that people who got up and moved around more often by strolling gently or doing more exercise were substantially healthier than the active couch potatoes.
30 minutes not enough: The results indicate that a single 30-minute daily workout "might not be enough" to alleviate the downsides of prolonged sitting. Light activities such as squats or strolling can improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.
Learning the details: The study shows that physical activity is not the whole story how people spend their remaining hours a day matters too. The study tracked almost every child born in Northern Finland decades ago, followed their lives and health, and asked 3,702 to wear a scientific-grade activity tracker for at least a week. The researchers measured people in six-second increments to see whether they were sitting, lightly strolling, or formally exercising throughout the day.
Four types of people based on fitness level: They characterized people into four groups: active couch potatoes, who accounted for almost a third of the group; a group that worked out for 30 minutes and sat for long hours, but in between, they rose often and strolled about.
A group that sat uninterrupted for up to 10 hours but also amassed about an hour of exercise most days, and the movers, who exercised about an hour most days while also moving lightly for about two hours more than the active couch potato group.
The active couch potatoes had it worst: The active couch potatoes had worse health markers than the other groups, including high blood sugar, body fat, and cholesterol levels. The researchers suggest simple steps like light activities to avoid being a sedentary "couch spud." These benefits were observed even after controlling for factors such as income, smoking, and sleep habits.