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How Being a Couch Potato Can Hurt You

Every time I go to blog about why it’s important to stay active and the dangers of being sedentary, my biggest fear is that readers will hear my words as one more lecture, one more poke in the back to remind them of what they’re not doing to be healthy and fit. So, I’m telling you upfront, I’m not trying to make you feel badly about yourself. I’m giving you information in order to help you take better care of yourselves.

“Is it a brain, or a couch potato” (Health and Fitness, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/4/14, p. 16E) tells us that inactivity is capable of remodeling the brain and—you guessed it—not in a healthy way. Yet another rat study advises that “being sedentary changes the shape of certain neurons in ways that significantly affect not just the brain but the heart as well.” After almost three months, rats who missed out on a running wheel, and were therefore the rodent version of a couch potato, had developed neurons in their brains “that made them likely to overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system, potentially increasing blood pressure and contributing to the development of heart disease.”

Then from Doctors Oz and Roizen (“If you’re up there in pounds,” Health and Fitness, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/4/14, p. 24E) we hear that the way to increase “brown fat—that’s the good kind”—is through aerobic exercise and strength training. Brown fat is what’s called thermogenic or heat producing and, therefore, burns more calories than white fat. The good news is that exercise (or activity—call it whatever you wish) can actually “turn some of your white fat brown (or at least beige).” And the more brown fat you have, the more calories you’ll burn.

Many of you don’t exercise because it hasn’t helped you lose weight. Let me be blunt and tell you that this is a pretty poor reason for not getting your body moving considering all the positive things that will happen when you do and the negative things that will happen when you don’t. It’s time to disconnect activity from weight and link it, instead, to health. People who value themselves want to be healthy, not just look healthy, because they know they deserve health, happiness, and to just plain feel good.

Why do you exercise? Why don’t you exercise? Do you think about the benefits you’ll get if you do and the harm you’re inflicting on yourselves if you don’t? Forget about appearance or attractiveness and think about what this says about how you think of yourself. Most of you want others to value you (particularly you approval-seekers out there), but why should they, if you don’t show them how much you value yourself?