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Active couch potato

When 30 minutes of exercise a day might not be enough.

Article Author: Katie McPherson

Article Date:

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Some people work out to look and feel stronger, while others are focused on heart health and wellness. If you’re in the latter camp, you’ll want to know this: A recent study from the University of Oulu in Finland found that the daily 30 minutes of exercise recommended by most major health organizations may not be enough. Study participants who accomplished this goal but were sedentary during and after for the majority of the day still had elevated cholesterol and blood sugar.

But researchers said the solution isn’t just working out longer or with more intensity; it’s adding more movement throughout the day. The participants who moved frequently – walking for a few minutes, stretching or doing a few squats – had healthier levels of cholesterol and blood sugar, even though everyone in the study did the same amount of actual exercise.

Mix in some movement

Keith Brown, MPH, coordinator and wellness coach at the Y Healthy Living Center at Baptist North, said he likes to take small breaks throughout his day for health benefits.

“I like to relax my eyes every 20 minutes by looking away from my computer screen. I started adding sit-to-stands to that time,” he said. “If you’re working out 30 minutes every day, that is the recommended amount and equals about 150 minutes per week. If we look at your overall health and determine that amount of exercise isn’t enough, we'll look at either extending that time or adding more activities.”

Brown said with a little forethought, you can find simple ways to spend more time being active throughout the day. Try:

  • Parking farther from the entrance when you go somewhere
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Using a printer or copy machine in a different part of the office
  • Working at a standing desk or sitting on an exercise ball while on the job
  • Going on a brisk, 5-minute walk every two hours (to get some sun or a healthy snack, perhaps)
  • Stretching while watching TV
  • Cleaning the house

‘Something is better than nothing’

For people who balance work, family, hobbies and their health, trying to find more time to dedicate to the gym can feel out of the question. Brown said it’s important to think about what your health goals are and choose your next move accordingly.

“Exercise is just one piece of the puzzle of someone’s health. There are four contributing factors: diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. For example, stress can trigger unhealthy habits in all of these areas, and lack of sleep can negatively impact your blood pressure, so there are many ways to affect change in our health,” he said.

Whether you choose to spend more time being active or amp up the intensity of your exercise, don’t feel defeated by the idea of the “active couch potato.”

“Something is better than nothing, and you can always work up to something bigger,” Brown said. “Focus on identifying what you’re trying to achieve and the benefits you hope to gain, and go from there.”


Wondering how much movement you need to achieve good health? Request a free health screening or make an appointment with a wellness coach at a Baptist Health Y Healthy Living Center near you by calling 904.202.4500.

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