Are you an active couch potato? Take this two-part question to find out:
The study, which involved more than 3,700 men and women in Finland, found that many exercised vigorously for half an hour, but then sat continuously for another 10, 11 or 12 hours. These were the study’s active couch potatoes, and blood sugar, cholesterol, and body fat were all elevated.
But the study found that men and women who got up and moved around a little bit, whether it was a gentle walk or a lot of exercise, were healthier than active couch potatoes.
“The results suggest that just 30 minutes of daily exercise may not be enough to mitigate the effects of prolonged sitting,” said Vahid Farahi, a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Oulu and leader of the new study.
in other words, If we exercise but sit around all day, it feels like we’ve done nothing.
The good news is that a few simple steps—literally and otherwise—should keep us from becoming active couch potatoes.
The dangers of sitting
The World Health Organization and other experts recommend Work moderately for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. A brisk walk is considered moderate exercise.
Anecdotal evidence shows that this half-hour of exercise can increase our health, our spirits, and our lifespan. The problem is, how do we spend the remaining 23½ hours a day?
“It’s only in the last five years or so that we’ve started to understand that exercise isn’t the whole story,” says Raija Korpelain, a professor of health exercise at the University of Oulu in Finland and an author on the team. A new study.
In the past, most research has examined sitting and physical activity in isolation, and has examined simple activities such as skipping or going to the mailbox or getting another cup of coffee.
So, for the new study, published in July in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, Korpelainen and her colleagues turned to a large pool of data about nearly every child born in northern Finland decades ago. As they grew older, researchers tracked their lives and health, and after the group became adults, they asked 3,702 of them to wear a scientific-grade activity tracker for at least one week.
The researchers can see in six-second increments whether a person is sitting, walking a bit, or exercising throughout the day. Because the monitors measured movement, standing was counted as motionless, as was sitting. With that information, they identified and described how people moved.
Active couch potatoes, who make up a third of the group, sit a lot, resting for more than 10 hours a day. You meet recommended physical activity guidelines – getting about 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. But then they Less than 220 minutes of light activity per day.
Another group worked for 30 minutes and sat for long hours. But, in between, they often get up and walk around. Compared to active couch potatoes, they spent 40 percent more time — an extra 90 minutes each day — in what the researchers called “light activity.”
The third group sat continuously for 10 hours but exercised for an hour on most days.
The final group, which the researchers aptly named “the movers,” did this by exercising for about an hour most days, as well as moving less than the active couch potato group for about two hours.
When the researchers checked these groups against people’s current health data, the active couch potatoes had worse blood sugar control, body fat percentage and cholesterol profiles.
While the researchers controlled for income, smoking, sleep habits, and more, the other groups had relatively better blood sugar control and cholesterol levels and 8 percent less body fat compared to the active couch potatoes, all of whom were better and at the same rate. Reasons.
The lesson from the study is that we need more than just a quick workout Moving lightly and frequently, cleaning, taking the stairs, walking the halls, or otherwise not lingering. The sweet spot in this study involves 80 or 90 minutes of extra light activity, “but any extra activity should be beneficial,” Farahi said.
You can also try to squeeze in a little exercise. In this study, people benefited if they doubled their exercise to 60 minutes. But, again, “do what you can,” Korpelainen said. Adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes to a daily walk is all that’s important, she said, even if she can’t exactly manage an hour’s worth of exercise.
“The goal is to sit less,” said Matthew Bouman, a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe who studies exercise and metabolism but was not part of the new study. “We can each decide how to get there.”
This study has limitations. It only looks at people’s lives at one point in time. It also involved Finns, most of whom were Caucasian and all of whom were somewhat active, possibly unrepresentative of the rest of us, and did not include a completely sedentary comparison group.
Still, “it should prompt us to think about how we spend our time,” says Bouman, and perhaps make us more active in structuring our lives and spaces. “Try putting the printer and recycling bins in another room, so you have to get up and go there,” he suggested.
“I like to remind myself to go upstairs and look out the window more often. The solutions don’t have to be scary,” Farahi continued. Try to move more when you can and in a way that makes you happy.
Have a fitness question? email YourMove@washpost.com And we will answer your question in the next column.