For starters, did you work out for 30 minutes today? That’s great, but did you spend the rest of your day hunched over a computer and lounging in front of the TV all evening?

If this sounds like you, then you meet the definition of what scientists have dubbed an “active couch potato.” What’s more, despite your dogged commitment to that daily walk or jog, you could still be at risk for various health problems. Here’s the story…

An extensive new study involved assessing the fitness and health of 3,700 men and women in Finland. Some of these folks religiously exercised for 30 minutes daily—and that’s great news. But for the other ten to 12 hours of the day, many of them were largely sedentary. As a result, say the researchers, they all had elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, and body fat.

The team called them active couch potatoes.

The Perils of an Active Couch Potato Life

Next, researchers compared the active couch potatoes to other people who spent more time exercising. Researchers segmented these people into groups that were “sedentary light movers,” “sedentary exercisers,” and “movers.” In varying degrees, all these folks generally engaged in more daily activity or movement than their active couch potato peers.

“Compared to active couch potatoes, sedentary light movers, sedentary exercisers, and movers spent less time in sedentary by performing more physical activity at light-intensity upward and had favorable differences in their cardiometabolic health markers,” the study states.

The researchers go on to say that although sufficiently active, active couch potatoes had the highest daily sedentary time. It appears that your single half-hour daily workout “might not be enough” to negate the effects of prolonged sitting, says Vahid Farrahi, a postdoctoral scientist and lead author of the new study.

Admittedly the study didn’t directly link the active couch potato status to specific health conditions. However, the study’s co-author, Sebastien Chastin, Ph.D., points out that “the main risks are cardiovascular conditions for the general population.” These include issues such as heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure.

Your Body was Made to Move

Here’s my take on the findings: your body was made to move. When you’re not moving regularly, your flexibility and mobility suffer. What’s more, you probably aren’t getting the full benefit of that daily exercise program.

According to the study, those who added 80 or 90 extra minutes of light activity to their day were the most well-off. But the authors emphasize that “any additional movement should be beneficial.”

The team published their study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.1

How Not to be an Active Couch Potato

  • Squeeze in a little more exercise: Can you add a few more minutes to your daily workout? Tacking on even ten to 15 minutes to a daily walk can make a huge difference, study authors point out.
  • Just add movement: Again, take every opportunity to move, whether it’s parking far away from your destination, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing simple household chores.
  • Active work savvy: Let’s face it, many of us have sedentary jobs. A standing desk is a great idea, as is standing up and walking while you take calls. Even cell phone apps can alert you to get up and walk around every hour, which is also good for your brain.

Most Important…

Keep it simple. In addition to your regular exercise routine try to get up on your feet more during the average day. Stand up and look out the window, volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog, or use the most distant bathroom in your home.

The goal, after all, is to sit less; you decide how to accomplish that.


  1. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/9900/Joint_Profiles_of_Sedentary_Time_and_
    Physical.86.aspx