Ah, the quintessential couch potato: a big sofa, an opened bag of chips, and all of the television channels a person could want. Saturdays were almost made for being a couch potato, weren’t they? Yet as the sofa beckons us, we know deep down that we’re not supposed to kick up our feet and do absolutely nothing all day long. It’s bad for us. It’ll make us all fat. Heck, it’s probably what’s already making us fat.
But what is it, exactly, about letting ourselves relax, that is so bad? Is it because we tend to eat mindlessly when our favorite t.v. show is on to distract us? Is it because before we know it, we’ve spent all day relaxing and there’s no time left to exercise? These “side effects” of the couch potato lifestyle certainly don’t help us stay fit, but a new study says that there may be more to it than that. A research study out of Tel Aviv University asserts that beyond the mindless eating and inherent lack of physical exertion that goes hand in hand with being this so-called “couch potato,” there may actually be a biochemical mechanism associated with excess leisure that promotes obesity. According to the study, the body weight that’s placed on our cells by sitting or lying for too long in one position can actually accelerate the rate at which fat cells develop in those areas.
Researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly how long is “too long” to remain stretched out in this now haphazard position, but there’s one thing that this research does pinpoint: too much of a sedentary life can be harmful in more ways than we had previously realized.
What this study doesn’t highlight, though, is the fact that this sedentary life isn’t restricted to those quintessential couch potatoes, with the big sofas and the opened bag of chips and all of the television channels a person would want. How long do we spend sitting in cars? At desks? In classrooms? At the kitchen table? I don’t know about you, but even with my work out routines and short walks to the post office, the majority of my life is spent in a seated position.
So what do we do about it? True, we can’t just quit our jobs, stop going to class, and vow to never travel anywhere that can’t be reached on foot; but at the same time, we can’t just throw in the towel and embrace this potentially harmful life of a couch/desk/car seat potato, either.
So here’s my challenge to you: make time for an afternoon walk in nice weather; stand up and stretch during commercial breaks; make it a goal to never spend more than 1-2 consecutive hours doing the same exact thing in the same exact position; and, yes, take the stairs when possible. We don’t have to burn our couches and refuse to ever relax, but it is healthy to take a critical look at our daily routine every now and then and come up with ways to make our lives just a little bit better.
What can you do today to move more?