10 ways to combat couch potato syndrome

The couch is a hard habit to kick. But being a couch potato can take years off your life, here’s how to quit the couch in 10 easy steps.

Along with cigarettes and caffeine, the couch can be a tough habit to give up but it’ll take years off your life. The CBC reports that a sedentary lifestyle can put you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity along with a myriad of other health complications (listed below). Finding the motivation to peel yourself off the couch when the temperature starts to drop is especially difficult but here are 10 ways to beat the couch potato right out of you:

1. Know the facts

Truth be told, there is nothing that is more motivating than learning the cold hard facts about how harmful an unhealthy lifestyle can be for you. “There are a number of problems that arise from living a sedentary lifestyle,” says Emily Sparrow, a professional personal trainer and owner of the Toronto-based fitness company Sky High Fitness.

The problems with living a sedentary life:

  • decrease in bone density leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis
  • bad posture
  • back pain
  • increased risk of diabetes
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • increased risk of arthritis
  • little to no energy
  • lethargy
  • bad sleeping habits
  • little to no strength – particularly in the upper body for women
  • low metabolism, which usually results in a very high body fat percentage

2. Give yourself a daily TV limit

Probably one of the best ways to combat your couch potato ways is to limit the amount of time you allow yourself to sit in front of the TV each night. Aim to limit yourself to one hour per evening by choosing your “must-see” show each day and turning on the TV only when the show begins and turning it off right after. Can’t live without your Thursday night lineup? Invest in a PVR system and record your shows to watch as a reward after exercising.

3. Get a membership…with all its perks

These days, most gyms are well-equipped to deal with the health-conscious-Grey’s Anatomy-addicted world we live in. Almost all gyms offer up TV systems strategically placed in front of their cardio machines that allow you to simple plug in your headphones and walk, run, or cycle your way through Meredith’s latest trauma drama. Plan your workouts to coincide with your favorite shows and you’ll be caught up on tomorrow’s office gossip without the guilt of a night of couch surfing (and munching!)

4. Make commercial breaks into fitness breaks

So maybe you just don’t have the time, or the financial means, to be hitting the gym whenever you please but don’t use that as an excuse. All it takes is a little motivation…and a lot of boring commercial breaks…to put a healthy spin on your TV obsession. Try doing push-ups (two or three sets of 10 repetitions), chair squats(without sitting all the way down!), bicycle crunches (three sets of 20 crunches) or jumping jacks (as many as you can!) during the entire length of the commercial breaks. Two hours of programming will have roughly 30-40 minutes of commercial airtime, which adds up to a decent workout.

5. Pump it up

Up the ante on your commercial time “fitness breaks” by using dumbbells to do upper-body exercises, 2-3 times per week while your shows are on air. “It is particularly important for woman to include both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training in their exercise regime,” says Sparrow. “It is the resistance training that will increase your bone density and increase the amount of lean muscle you have which will in turn reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.” Try alternating bicep curls (two sets of 12 reps on each arm) and overhead tricep extensions (four sets of 12 reps) one night and then alternating overhead shoulder presses and side arm raises and front arm raises on another TV night (four sets of 12 reps each). Remember that resistance is key here so lift the weights slowly for two seconds, hold for two seconds, and then take four seconds to lower your weights back to their starting position.

6. Have a ball

Invest in a stability ball to sit on while doing your exercises or just watching TV. Designed to encourage your body to respond to the instability of the ball, these inflatable workout tools engage and strengthen your muscles, particularly your core abdominal and back muscles, and improve your overall centre of balance.

7. Get interactive

Interactive gaming, like the WiiFit, is changing the way we do and enjoy exercising. Challenging and undeniably fun, interactive fitness video games are a convenient, and simplistic way to introduce physical activity to someone who is just working up the motivation to move away from the TV and start into a more active lifestyle. It is important, however, to remember that the virtual fitness world pales in comparison to the real thing. “Lifting weights via a video game versus going to the gym and doing it, you’re going to get better results when hitting the gym,” says Sparrow. “That said, if the video game is seen as a tool to help motivate you and get you off the couch…it’s certainly better than nothing.”

8. Get out of the house

Plain and simple: there is nothing that will get your mind away from what’s on TV like getting out of the house all together. “There are plenty of different ways to exercise and all of them can be turned into a fun and entertaining outing,” says Sparrow, who suggests rollerblading, bike riding, swimming, or team sports as excellent ways to get out of the house. “Exercise can be as simple as going for a brisk walk daily and as your stamina increases add some hand weights to hold along the way.”

9. Get into a group

“There are a number of outdoor group fitness classes your can join and not only benefit from the guidance of a professional trainer but the group camaraderie can play a large part in motivation,” says Sparrow. Check out online city-based forums to find walking or running groups in your area or hit your local gym and try out a group exercise class. “The important thing is to constantly challenge yourself and try to go that extra bit further everyday,” says Sparrow.

10. Stay motivated with S.M.A.R.T goals

“The best way to stay motivated is to set S.M.A.R.T goals” says Sparrow, who explains that the acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Specific: Sparrow says to ?take measurements before starting any fitness program and from there decipher what you’re goals are for a four week and eight week period. Having your goals written down is the first step to committing to achieving them.”

Measurable: having measurable goals is a way of tracking your progress using physical measures (i.e.. your chest, waist, and hip measurements) so you know exactly how successful or unsuccessful you have been.

Achievable and Realistic: making achievable and realistic goals is all about sticking to loosing only one to two pounds per week, explains Sparrow. “If you set your goal way beyond that you will be disappointed with the end result which can often lead to frustration and lack of motivation to continue working towards your goal.”

Time-bound: making time-bound goals means setting a time frame for which to achieve your goal weight, whether that be one month, six months, or one year from the time you start. “Figure out a goal that is both motivating and exciting for you to achieve, and remember to reward yourself once it’s achieved!” says Sparrow.

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