You might not like what you are about to read. Yet, I encourage you to go through this article; it could change your mindset around exercise and help you live a longer life!
We all know the term “couch potato”. Most of us do NOT identify with “a person who spends little or no time exercising and a great deal of time watching television”.
Before you keep reading, let me get this out of the way: it is not everyone's priority to stay healthy as they age, improve their fitness level, or live a long life in the first place. Most of us make plenty of unhealthy choices all the time, and this is absolutely fine! Not being attentive to our physical health or mental health doesn't make us any less worthy of respect, love, or care. I will soon write more about this, because it's a topic that is close to my heart, but I think it is important to mention it here. Because when I use the word "couch potato" for lack of better popular word, there is absolutely no value judgement. It's an observation and my goal is to raise awareness rather than point fingers.
Now, did you know that there is now a word to describe someone who is inactive most of the day, but then goes to the gym or works out for 30 minutes most days? These people are called ACTIVE COUCH POTATOES. And even though I am not a fan of labels - especially when they don't make us feel good - I think in this case, many of us can relate, right?
Unfortunately, when we are sitting at our desk, in our car, and then at the dinner table or on the couch most of the day and night, even though our 3 or 4 workouts per week are very beneficial and totally worth doing, the rest of our lifestyle is negatively impacting our health, weight, and longevity tremendously.
Lack of mobility is killing us
I am sure you’ve heard this before: “sitting is the new smoking”!
Here is the thing: the human body is meant to move! Genetically, we have not evolved much from the hunter/gatherer era, and our body has not adapted to a sedentary lifestyle.
According to the World Health Organisation, "Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety."
This is why it is CRITICAL to bring physical activity back into our daily lives. We cannot just focus on getting a workout done before going to work and then stay inactive the rest of the time.
We are a very smart species and have created ways for people who are financially comfortable to live a life with very little physical effort. From cars to washing machines, not forgetting drive-throughs, electric shades, remote controls and all kinds of gadgets and appliances, everything in our life has become more convenient... and less physically demanding.
Can you be healthy with exercise alone?
Think about it!
If you were to binge on chips and donuts all day long, and then cook a well-balanced healthy dinner at night, would you consider this a healthy way of eating? Would you expect an improvement of your cholesterol or blood pressure levels? Would you imagine that this regimen would lead to a leaner body?
Most likely, you would not!
Yet, when we are inactive all day long and go for a 30-minute workout at night, it's pretty much what we are doing. And for some reason, we expect great results!
Again, I am not implying that your workout is not beneficial. It definitely is (unless you are overdoing it and injuring yourself, of course). But we cannot expect to be "healthy" with that mindset.
Let's go back to the chips and donuts.
What would happen if you were to cut out chips and add a cup of veggies to all your meals, plus cook that balanced healthy dinner at night. Would that make a difference?
Most likely! Even if you still have a donut once a week and eat chips here and there. And this is exactly how it works with being active.
If you include physical activity throughout your daily schedule, it will make a big difference in your general health condition and in the amount of calories you burn during the day. You will feel stronger, your cardio will improve, your joints will not be as stiff, you will feel more energized, and it will even have an impact on your brain, your ability to focus, and your mental health. Chances are you will also sleep better and feel refreshed in the morning.
Best of all, after a while, you will get used to being more physically active and will want to move even more, so that your workout at the end of the way won’t seem as hard anymore, and you might want to increase their frequency, duration and/or intensity.
Of course, I am not asking you to drop your office job and start spending your days gardening and hiking - although, for some, that wouldn’t be so bad! - But there are many ways you can add “exercise” into your daily schedule.
The idea here is to identify all the non-active blocks of time that you can replace with more active blocks. Just bumping things up a notch can make a big difference in the long term.
Ideas to be more active every day:
- Walk, ride a home trainer, or do stretching while talking on the phone.
- If you are physically able to do so, stand rather than sit at work. If you can get a standing desk, do that! Otherwise, try to be creative and stand at least during meetings or while on zoom. It might be hard to stand for long periods of time at first, so take it easy, start with a few minutes as often as you can during the day and increase little by little.
Tips to be more active (cont'd)
- When you are sitting for more than an hour, take a 5 to 10-minute active break. Walk to the bathroom, go get water, do a few stretching exercises, go grab some fresh air outside or by the window.
- Wherever you go, park as far away from the door as possible. You don't even need to park in the designated parking lot... Sometimes, you can park a mile away and easily add a 30-minute walk to your daily routine.
- Get off the bus 1 or 2 stops early and do the same when you hop back on the bus. And of course, stand in the bus if it is safe to do so.
- Take the stairs! Discover how avoiding escalator can help you improve your general fitness , even when it seems impossible. Unless you have a disability, try to avoid escalators and elevators at all cost.
- Grab a backpack and walk or ride your bike to the grocery store. Don’t use a cart, take a basket instead. Believe me, this is a important detail, otherwise you will buy too much and won’t be able to carry the stuff back home! Been there, done that 🙂
- Make your "dates" more physically active: instead of meeting friends for coffee or a drink, go for a walk with them, or plan a picnic and play Frisbee.
- Entertaining at home? Turn up the music and dance. Of course, you can also do that when you vacuum your house or clean your windows. Up-beat music can really help you increase the physical intensity of everything you are doing.
- Mow your own lawn, do more house chores, take care of your garden if you have one... In a nutshell, make your life a little less physically convenient, so that your body gets an opportunity to move more often.
These are just a few ideas to be active all day long rather than only when you are at the gym or doing a planned workout. Oh, and by the way, of course, walk or ride to the gym if it’s within walking distance. If you take a step back and think about it, it doesn’t always make sense to drive to the gym and then run on the treadmill...
What will YOU do to move more?
Let me know in the comments below what you will do this week to move your body more often throughout the day. And please, share what you have already been doing that's been working well for you.
I’ll be honored to chat with you and see how you can stack all the odds in your favor. Allons-y! Let’s Go!