Are you an active couch potato?
Newsflash (old news in fact)...we sit way too much!
The majority of the modern world lives sedentary lives, and not even fitness enthusiasts are safe from the assorted health risks of sedentary living.
Going to your body pump, yoga, spin, Pilates, CrossFit, Les Mills class etc. for an hour a day even every day doesn't counteract the eight or more hours spent at a desk, commuting, or lying on the sofa in the evening.
Risks include musculoskeletal, metabolic, and hormone imbalances including higher blood pressure and the propensity to store instead of burn fat, an increase in appetite, and a tendency toward obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
To counteract the dangers of sedentary living it is essential to:
- Move more frequently, at least 2-3 minutes every hour, 10 minutes every two hours and for half an hour at lunchtime. Get up, reach up, bend down, twist, and walk, take a few flights of stairs, and go to the bathroom (even if you don’t need to go).
- Avoid prolonged moments of stillness, both when sitting and standing at your stand up desk, vary your body positions.
- Add more movement to your life, such as a 5-15 minute walk after meals to regulate the insulin response.
To optimise cardiovascular and improve lung capacity, aim for exercising in the ideal fat-burning aerobic heart rate zone of 180-age or below for 2-5 hours per week in combination with regular movements. A heart rate monitor will be needed. Low-level aerobic exercise of this sort enhances fat burning during the workout and throughout the rest of the day. Aerobic exercise also strengthens bones, joints, and connective tissues, and boosts the immune system with a cascade of anti-aging hormones. Good options are jogging, cycling, walking and swimming.
Occasionally exercising above this aerobic heart rate zone and into the glucose-burning anaerobic heart rate zone (up to 90 percent of maximum heart rate, but no need to exceed that) can be beneficial. High intensity interval exercises, such as sprint workouts build muscle, support enhanced organ function, and accelerate metabolism, as long as they are combined with sufficient periods of rest and recovery. A 10-20 minute session every 7-10 days is sufficient.
Be careful, participating in ‘chronic cardio’—too high intensity, too often—elevates cortisol levels so you're locked in fight-or-flight response, overloads your adrenal glands, impairs immune function, suppresses testosterone, encourages chronic/systemic inflammation and pain. Chronic cardio also teaches your body to prefer burning glucose to fat, increases sugar cravings, and traps you in fat-storing mode.
So in summary
-Exercise at a low intensity (heart rate at 180-age) for 2-5 hours per week
-Occasionally exercise at a high intensity (up to 90% of maximum heart rate) at intervals, for 10-20 mins when feeling well and fully energised.
Simple guidelines that will help keep you healthy and avoid you becoming a victim of active couch potato syndrome.
Shanahan C. Deep nutrition: Why your genes need traditional food. Flatiron Books; 2017 Jan 3.
Taubes G. The case against sugar. Anchor Books; 2017 Dec 5.
Sisson M. The primal blueprint: reprogramme your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy. Random House; 2012 Aug 31.
Chatterjee R. The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life Paperback – 28 Dec 2017
Simon is a Chartered Physiotherapist and Certified Health Coach.
As a Health Coach I help clients gain the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to become active participants in their care so they can reach their self-identified health goals. These include improving physical fitness, emotional wellbeing, weight management, diet and sleep quality.