The Active Couch Potato

Last Monday Amanda Durall, our manager / trainer at our satellite in the Volunteer Building, and I went to listen to Dr. Charles Fountaine, an exercise scientist at the University of Minnesota – Duluth.  He was a guest lecturer at UTC.  He spoke on this idea of the “Active Couch Potato.” In our post-modern society where work happens at a desk with a computer, we are becoming more and more sedentary.  We all understand the health risks that go along with being sedentary – metabolic disorders, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and increased risk of some cancers.  

This idea of the “Active Couch Potato” is the person who may sit 6-8 hours a day but then gets quality exercise for approximately 30 minutes a day.  Even if we are getting an hour of quality, vigorous exercise but sitting 6-8 hours a day, what are the consequences of all that sitting and how much does the activity time really help?  

There was a study in Britain from 1949 – 1952 in which coronary heart disease rates were studied in middle aged men who worked in the bus transportation system.  Two jobs were studied analyzing the bus driver and the conductor.  The bus driver basically sat all day.  The conductor walked up and down the aisles and to the second floor of the bus punching the passenger’s tickets.  The research found that rates of heart disease were significantly lower in the conductors as compared to the bus drivers. 

Granted this is intuitive.  It is also real science.  In the meantime, we must be creative and intentional to create more activity in our days.  How can we add more “bus conductor work” into our day so that we don’t just sit and then go bust our tails for thirty minutes to an hour and expect to be as healthy as we can be?  

Here are some ideas:

 Take a brisk walk for 5 minutes each hour of the day at work – it may be simply walking around the buildings hall and going up and down some steps or walking outside for 5 minutes and collecting some vitamin D as well

 Take a brisk walk during a coffee break or bathroom breaks for even 3-5 minutes 

 Takes some of your lunch hour to walk, either before or after

 Stand up whenever you can at work at least every 20 minutes – set an alarm to remind you

 Use a wireless phone so that you can get up and walk around your office as you talk 

 Walk to co-workers desk rather than emailing or texting

 Take stairs whenever possible

 Park as far as possible from your office

 Use a stand up desk 

 Sit on a stability ball or another form of an active desk chair 

 Get a pedometer & continue trying to break your daily step record - 10,000 is a great goal

 Take a family walk after dinner

 Get a dog and take the dog on a walk each day

Be intentional and set some goals from this list.  It is small, but like many things in life, the small investments over long periods of time add up.  Take a look at the following articles on this topic.