Are You An Active Couch Potato?

I know that sounds like an oxymoron. How can someone be active but still be a couch potato? Well, according to researchers, it is both possible and common.

I’m just back from a terrific symposium about weight management. I love these conferences because I bring back so many great ideas for my patients, plus I’m in the company of very smart and accomplished people. It’s impossible not be excited when you’re around so many enthusiastic, successful and energetic professionals.

One of my favorite sessions described the negative health effects of sitting too long. Interestingly, being inactive for several hours a day is unhealthy even for those people who exercise 30, even 60, minutes per day. We spend more time in sedentary behaviors than we do sleeping! On average, we spend 8 to 9 hours each day eating, typing, watching TV, driving, sitting, using the computer and engaging in similar activities. Even among people who exercise regularly, excessive sedentary behavior is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation, abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and increased risk of death. Researchers are now studying the benefits of taking very short activity breaks. It looks like simply standing for a couple of minutes or walking to get a drink of water can improve health.

I first learned of the hazards of excessive sitting a few years ago. I was stunned that I could suffer from the negative health effects of sedentary behavior even when I jogged daily. When working on my first book tied me to my computer even more than usual, I knew I had to find a solution to all that sitting. Now I have a treadmill desk. In fact, I’m writing this blog post while walking 1.5 miles per hour. You may not have the space or funds for a treadmill desk, but there are plenty of other ways to decrease sedentary behavior. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Set an alarm to get up every hour for 2 or 3 minutes. Stand, stretch, do calf raises or push-ups against a wall. It doesn’t matter; just get up.
  • Use the bathroom on the floor one level above or below you.
  • Walk to your co-workers desk instead of calling or emailing.
  • Hide the remote control from yourself.
  • Let the dog out instead of asking a family member do it.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Hunt for shells instead of sitting on the beach.

Can you commit today to being or becoming both physically active (getting regular exercise) and less sedentary? I’d love to know how you do it. Please leave a comment or email me directly at