I don’t know about you, but when I hear the term couch potato my thoughts are anything but positive. The first words that come to mind are fat and lazy (so negative).
The mental images usually involve a big bloated spare-tire stomach that’s used as a resting place for chip bags, ice cream cartons and soda pop cans. The surroundings include crumpled fast food bags and pizza boxes littering the sofa and floor all around.
Not exactly your image of health.
As it turns out, my mental image isn’t far from reality. But the real concern (beyond weight gain) is how it affects your body!
What is a couch potato?
I think we all can agree that a couch potato is someone who rarely exercises and spends a lot of time watching television. And who can blame them? TV is appealing, it’s fun to escape your own reality, turn your brain off and enjoy endless hours of entertainment. Netflix makes it even better (or worse) depending on how you look at it.
Binge watching has become a completely acceptable pastime. In fact, “binge watching” was just dubbed word of the year. It’s kind of scary if you think about it. Something can only be dubbed word of the year if it’s being talked about….a lot. And if binge watching is being talked about a lot, it’s being done a lot. That means we are all spending a lot more time sitting down and a lot less time moving our bodies.
Binge watching is even taking away the negative image of couch potatoes and instead turning the lazy lifestyle into a badge of honor that you can wear with pride. And where are you going to pin that badge of honor? Maybe it will fit nicely on the new fat rolls you gain while sitting your life away (am I being too harsh?).
Being a couch potato and spending all your free time on your rear end can lead to some pretty serious health risks:
1. Heart Health
It’s sad but it’s true. Your heart can’t handle all that TV time, and it’s not just because of all the hookups and breakups on your favorite soap opera. It’s because your heart needs exercise just like the rest of your body and sitting around isn’t doing it any good.
A study released by the European Heart Journal compared lifestyles of more than 29,000 people from 52 countries. It found that people who were physically active for both work and recreation had a significantly lower risk of heart attack. They also discovered that owning a TV and a car gave an individual a 27% greater chance of having a heart attack.
2. Poor Eating Habits
As reported in Time Magazine, “Spending time in front of the tube not only leads to mindless eating, but also sets children up to prefer unhealthy foods in general.” The article goes on to report, “watching can establish a deeper pattern of poor eating habits that can set children up …for future obesity.”
While the report focused on the TV watching habits of children, it’s not hard to believe the same holds true for adults, after all, they have to learn their eating habits somewhere, right?
So, if you have to snack on something while you watch TV, consider keeping some healthy snacks close by to help satisfy your need to eat and curb your hunger too. IdealShake meal replacement shake is a great alternative to those sugary, high-calorie foods we usually find ourselves gravitating to. Not only are these shakes low in calories, they taste just like a milkshake without all of the added sugar. Win win.
Binge watching has been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. In a study done at the University of Toledo, researchers tracked 406 participants and their daily TV consumption. They found that after watching just two hours of TV, study participants felt more depressed and anxious than those who spent less time in front of the television.
4. Undoing the Effects of Exercise
If you’re reading this thinking, yeah, I binge watch with the best, but I exercise, so it’s okay, they balance each other out; it’s time to think again.
Research is showing that exercise can’t undo the negative side effects of sitting around. The term couch potato used to be specific to people who spent hours on end sitting down and watching TV. That’s not the case anymore.
It’s becoming more common to have a job that creates a sedentary lifestyle. On top of that, there’s laptops, desktops, tablets, gaming systems, social media and about a hundred other digital distractions that promote a lazy lifestyle and make us live like couch potatoes all day long.
The side effects of your sedentary lifestyle are so strong they even have the power to override the benefits of regular exercise. There’s even a catchy new name given to help describe this phenomenon, an Active Couch Potato: someone who exercises, yet lives an inactive life outside of the gym.
5. Higher Mortality Rates
Dr. James Levine, a world-renowned leader in obesity research says,
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
Sitting ourselves to death. Let that sink in for a minute.
A seated position has been shown to negatively affect your health. Too much time on your tail end has been linked to:
- Lower energy
- Slower metabolism
- Back and spine injuries
- Reduced social skills
- Loneliness and depression
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Rheumatic disorders
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Higher mortality rates
You need to know the risks associated with too much time on your tail and figure out ways to get up and move!
6. Weight Gain
This one’s kind of a no brainer. If you’re sitting, you’re not moving. If you’re not moving, you’re not burning any calories. If you’re not burning any calories, you are going to gain weight.
Research has shown that spending too much time sitting can mess with your metabolism and even increase your risk for an early death.
In simple terms, metabolism is your body’s way of converting food into energy. Anything that interferes with your metabolism is going to hurt your weight loss plans.
What Can I do?
Walk when you can-take the stairs, park in the furthest spot from your destination, set a timer to remind you to take walking breaks, use the furthest bathroom from you, stand during phone calls, walk to your co-workers instead of emailing them.
Create standing space-if you work in an office environment, make sure you have somewhere to take standing breaks. Take your laptop to a counter and stand while you work, drink your coffee standing up, or eat your lunch while standing.
Treadmill TV-consider saving your favorite TV shows or movies for treadmill time. That way, you can kill two birds with one stone.
“Commercial” Breaks-with DVR and streaming services, we know that commercials are almost a thing of the past, but you can use the idea of a commercial to motivate movement. Try some of these simple exercises in between episodes or where commercials normally would be.
Walk or Bike to Work-if that’s not possible, take walking breaks at lunch. And, if you use public transportation, try to spend half your travel time standing.
Ditch your office chair-try using a yoga ball, standing desk or treadmill desk to get you off your rear.
Time to Take a Stand
To be a couch potato, you have to be an expert in taking a seat. But now, more than ever, it’s time for you to take a stand.
Stand up for yourself.
Stand up for your weight loss goals.
And most importantly stand up for your health.
If you HAVE to snack on something while watching TV, make sure you’re smart about it. We recommend taking IdealShake when those hunger cravings start to get the best of you. Not only is it delicious, it will control your hunger for up to three hours; satisfying your need to snack and nourishing your body with vitamins and minerals that are essential to your health.
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