Are You a Bubblegum Potato: How Sitting All Day Can Knock Out Your Workout

Are you a fan of potatoes? Answer this two-question test to find out:

Did you exercise for 30 minutes today?

Did you spend the rest of the day staring at your computer and then settling down in front of the TV at night?

If you answered yes to both questions, you meet the definition of what scientists call “active couch potatoes.” This means that, despite your commitment to exercise He may be at risk of developing a variety of health issues, according to a comprehensive new The study of how people move – or don’t move – throughout the day.

The study, which included more than 3,700 men and women in Finland, found that many of them exercised faithfully for half an hour, but then sat, almost nonstop, for another 10, 11 or even 12 hours a day. This was the active couch potato for the study, and it raised blood sugar, cholesterol, and body fat.

But the study also found that men and women who got up and moved around a lot, whether by taking a gentler walk or getting more exercise, were significantly healthier than racy potatoes.

Wahid Farahi, a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Oulu and lead author of the new study, said the findings tell us that one 30-minute exercise a day “may not be enough” to alleviate the downsides of prolonged sitting.

In other words, If we were exercising but also sitting for the rest of the day, it would be as if we hadn’t exercised at all.

The good news is that a few simple steps – literal and otherwise – should keep us from becoming an active couch-sander.

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The dangers of immobility

The World Health Organization and other experts advise us to do so Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Brisk walking is considered moderate exercise.

Substantial scientific evidence shows that half an hour of this effort enhances our health, our spirits, and our longevity. The problem is how we spend the remaining 23 and a half hours a day.

said Raija Korpelinen, professor of health exercise at the University of Oulu in Finland and co-author of a new study book.

Very short workouts can be surprisingly effective

In the past, most research examined sitting and exercise separately, and tended to ignore or underestimate light activities such as walking in the mailbox or bringing another cup of coffee.

So, for the new study, published in July in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Korpelinen and her co-authors drew on a large data set on every child born in northern Finland decades ago. As they grew, the researchers tracked their lives and health, and after the group became an adult, 3,702 people were asked to wear the science activity tracker for at least a week.

The researchers could see, in six-second increments, whether a person was sitting, walking around a bit, or exercising more formally throughout the day. Since the trackers were measuring movement, standing counted as inactivity, as was sitting. With this data, they distinguished people, rather frankly, by the way they moved.

Active potatoes, which represented nearly a third of the group, sat sitting for more than 10 hours a day. They met their recommended exercise guidelines – get about 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise. But then, hmm He rarely wakes up, and accumulates less than 220 minutes a day of light movement.

Another group similarly worked for 30 minutes and sat for hours on end. But in between, they often got up and walked around. Compared to the energized fries, they spent about 40 percent of the extra time — roughly an extra 90 minutes each day — on what the researchers call “light activity.”

A third group sat uninterrupted for up to 10 hours, but also collected about an hour of exercise on most days.

The last group, which the researchers rightly called “movers,” did just that, exercising about an hour on most days, while also moving briskly for about two hours longer than the active potato group.

When researchers reviewed these groups against people’s current health data, couch-active potatoes had the worst control of blood sugar, body fat and cholesterol profiles.

The other groups fared about the same, with relative improvements in glycemic control and cholesterol levels and about 8 percent less body fat than active potatoes, even when the researchers controlled for income, smoking, sleep habits, and more. Factors.

The lesson of the research is that in addition to a quick workout, we need to Moving briskly and often, cleaning, climbing stairs, strolling the halls or being unsteady. The cool spot in this study involved about 80 or 90 extra minutes of light activity, Farahi said, “but any extra movement should be beneficial.”

You can also try to do more exercises. In this study, people benefited if they doubled their workouts to 60 minutes in total. “Do what you can,” said Korpelinin, again. She said just adding an extra 10 or 15 minutes to your daily walk will count, even if you don’t quite manage an hour of exercise.

“The goal is to sit for less,” said Matthew Bowman, a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe who studies movement and metabolism, but was not part of the new study. “We can determine how best to get there.”

Exercise boosts the brain — and mental health

This study has limitations. It only looks at people’s lives at a time. It also involved Finns, mostly Caucasians and all fairly active, who might not be representative of the rest of us, and did not include the stable comparison group entirely.

However, it “should prompt us to think about how we spend our time,” Bowman said, and perhaps reconfigure our lives and spaces so we can move more. He suggested: “Try putting the printer and recycling bins in another room, so get up and walk in there.”

“I like to remind myself to go and look out the window a lot,” Farahi said. “Solutions do not have to be frightening,” he added. “Keep it simple. Try to move more, however you can, whenever you can and in ways that you enjoy.”

Do you have a fitness question? E-mail YourMove@washpost.com We may answer your question in a future column.

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