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Help! I’m a Couch Potato

Erin Chamerlik, MS, MT(ASCP)

Erin Chamerlik photo woman on couch 300x197 Help! Im a Couch Potato

Help! I’m a Couch Potato

We all know we should exercise regularly, yet we find it hard to fit exercise in to our daily lives. I am not going to shame you into exercise but I will tell you some surprising things that may cause you to want to incorporate something new into your week.

First of all, ask yourself one question. Would you like to die sooner or later?

Harvard Public Health researchers published a list of the top 12 preventable causes of premature death. Number four on the list is Inadequate physical activity and inactivity which results in 191,000 premature deaths per year (Harvard School of Public Health, 2009).

What if there was a way to lose body fat, increase muscle, build strength and stamina, while decreasing blood pressure and improving blood sugar levels and all you had to do was spend just 30 or 40 minutes per week (Harvard School of Public Health). Surely everyone would find it hard to play the “no time” card given the total weekly commitment can be just 30 minutes.

If you care about improving your health and living longer, there is no excuse that warrants couch potato-ness. The plan is simple. Our bodies were designed for play and physical activity with short bursts at high intensity. This type of activity builds growth hormone, something that is sadly declining with age. Growth hormone builds muscle and burns fat. On the other hand, cardio training, long distance running and aerobics do not build growth hormone.

Interval training or burst training is the dream exercise.

It takes very little time, can be done by anyone, and can incorporate a wide variety of exercises to suit everyone from the older couch potato to the buff athlete.

With interval training your lungs are challenged and over time lung capacity grows. The importance of this fact is highlighted by Al Sears, MD in his program, P.A.C.E. The 12-Minute Fitness Revolution (Sears), “The smaller your lungs, the greater your chance of dying — of all causes.”

erin chamerlik Help! Im a Couch PotatoAny activity can be employed that allows you to work at your maximum heart rate.

If you have not been exercising, start with interval walking training. Warm up at a regular pace for a few minutes then walk as fast as you can for 30 to 60 seconds, working at your maximum heart rate. At this rate, you will be breathing heavy, unable to carry on a conversation, and by 60 seconds you would not be able to push yourself one more step at that pace.

Next, slow the pace and walk for about 1.5 to 2 minutes while you recover. You will be panting as your lungs hunger for oxygen. After about 2 minutes repeat the burst level walking again for another 30 to 60 seconds, completing four to six sets. That’s it. You are done for the day. Plan to do interval training two or three times a week.

Try different activities to find one that you like. You can walk, run, swim, bike, use a treadmill, elliptical or rowing machine. You can incorporate interval training with stair climbing, trampoline jumping, even jumping rope.

You don’t need to join a gym or sign up for a class. The time for procrastination is over. It is time to get off the fence and do something. Do something now, not tomorrow or next week. Soon you will find that your energy is increasing, your lung capacity is growing, and you are becoming fit and healthy.



British Journal of Sports Medicine (2011)

Harvard School of Public Health (2009)

Sears, A. (2011)



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