December 1, 2022


Health & Fitness

Being an ‘active couch potato’ cancels out exercise benefits

Being an ‘active couch potato’ cancels out exercise benefits

Taking that little stroll at work to stretch your legs could be saving your life, according to a new study.

Experts out of Finland say there is such a thing as an “active couch potato” — those who exercise daily and then sit down for the rest of the day.

And that’s bad news, since parking it for prolonged periods of time essentially cancels out the benefits of your sweat session.

The recent study, published in “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,” found that people who exercised for half an hour a day, but then were sedentary between 10 to 12 hours a day had higher blood sugar, cholesterol and body fat compared to those who moved around more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise is thought to improve overall health — physical and mental — and increase life span.

But that might not be enough to combat the damage of prolonged periods of sitting.

Even if you exercise regularly, sitting down non-stop after it can counteract it.
Even if you exercise regularly, sitting down non-stop afterwards can counteract it.
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The authors say adding extra 'light exercise' into your daily routine can help.
The authors say adding extra ‘light exercise’ into your daily routine can help.
Getty Images

“It’s only in the last five years or so that we’ve begun to understand that physical activity isn’t the whole story,” Raija Korpelainen, a professor of health exercise at the University of Oulu in Finland and co-author of the new study, told the Washington Post.

The researchers surveyed 3,700 men and women in Finland, asking them to wear scientific-grade activity trackers for at least a week to assess their movements throughout the day.

Four distinct groups were established based on how much activity they achieved throughout the day: “active couch potatoes” (1,173 of the participants), “sedentary light movers” (1,199), “sedentary exercisers” (694) and “movers” (636).

While both “active couch potatoes” and “sedentary light movers” exercised for 30 minutes daily and sat for prolonged periods — the latter group tended to move around 40% (or 90 minutes) more than “active couch potatoes” throughout the day.

“Sedentary exercisers,” meanwhile, sat for prolonged periods of time but managed to eke out an hour of daily exercise (double that of the “active couch potatoes”). The “movers” achieved an hour of exercise a day, as well as accumulated two extra hours of movement during their daily tasks. All of these groups fared better than the “active couch potatoes.”

Overall, the authors say the study proves the goal is to sit less during the day, noting that adding 80 to 90 minutes of extra light activity daily can improve overall health.