Inactivity Can Become a Habit: 4 Tips to Get You Off the Couch

A woman exercises on the beach.
(Image credit: Beach exercise photo via Shutterstock)

Just like everyone else, I go through periods of time when exercising is the last thing I want to do. But knowing how important it is for my health, I force myself to push through, and after I get over the hump, I'm good to go — I feel motivated and start looking forward to exercise once again.

But sometimes, I think about what would happen if I didn't push through the rough patches. I'm pretty sure I would turn into a couch potato. Just as regular exercise can make you feel energized and raring to go, sitting on the couch and doing nothing can make you feel like doing more of the same.

The reason to push yourself through is because there are health implications involved. To put it simply: Being a couch potato is bad for your health. In fact, a study published in July in the journal The Lancet showed just how bad a sedentary lifestyle is for your health. You may be surprised by the results. I sure was.

Researchers at Harvard University found that a lack of exercise leads to one in 10 deaths worldwide. Those results become even more shocking when you compare them to cigarette smoking. According to the World Health Organization, cigarette smoking is also responsible for 1 in 10 deaths throughout the world.

Since you've probably never heard of someone who "died of inactivity," you might be wondering what this is all about. The study was based on the principle that inactivity increases your risk for many health conditions. For example, even modest physical activity is associated with a decreased risk for diabetes, according to a study published this year in the journal Diabetes Care.  

So essentially, the Harvard study found that many deaths could be prevented if we all just got a little exercise on a more consistent basis. Of course, if we cut out smoking too, we'd really be in better shape.

So, here are a few tips to motivate yourself to get off that couch:

  1. Change the way you think about exercise. Instead of dreading your workouts, think of them as your "me time." After all, you are taking care of yourself in the best way possible.
  2. Surround yourself with fitness. If your friends consider walking to the ice cream shop to be exercise, you need to change the people you interact with on a daily basis (or try to change their minds). When you're at home, read fitness blogs and magazines to stay focused.
  3. Do something fun! I feel like I say this often, but exercise doesn't have to be dreadful. Take salsa dancing classes, play basketball or jump rope.
  4. Think about how great you're going to look and feel. After about three weeks of regular exercise, you'll probably notice that you have more energy and are starting to see positive changes in your body. That's because you're restoring your health – now, there's something to look forward to!

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.