How couch-sitting could be your ride to Hell - (8/30/2022)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro 

Gary, 55, hobbled into the pharmacy, rubbing his backside. "Your butt hurt, Gary?" asked the pharmacist. "I was attacked by my couch," Gary groaned. "A spring pinched me when I plonked down! It hurts!" "Couches still have springs?" the pharmacist asked in wonderment. "My couch is old. It was my pal. Now it wants to kill me! I need a new one that I can spend the winter on."  

Gary will be sliding into winter in dangerous shape. He is the classic couch potato: Overweight, with high blood pressure, blood sugar readings all over the place, a smoker, and lousy with staying on his meds. Even now, he is holding a bag of chips and a Pepsi, allegedly his "lunch." The pharmacist has repeatedly spoken with Gary about the dangers of his "numb-butt" lifestyle. "Gotta die from something!" laughs Gary. Yep, Gary will have his pick of otherwise preventable diseases: Cancer, heart attack, obesity, lung problems, or the freak accident such as puncturing a carotid artery when one's electric toothpick dispenser goes awry. 

Back to the couch conundrum. Sitting time is the standard measure of a sedentary lifestyle. A 2020 study representing 47% of the planet's adult population in 62 countries revealed that the average person sits down for 4.7 to 6.5 hours a day – a world record, claimed the study leaders! And the richer the nation, the longer the sitting times. “Yeah, so?” said Gary. “That’s why TV was invented.”

Well, brace yourself, Gary. Sitting too long can kill you. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that vegetating on one's bee-hind for more than 3 hours a day is to blame for 4% - or about 433,000 – of all deaths on Earth each year. However, according to the World Population Clock, about 130,000 people die each day for 130,000 reasons. Factoring in wars, viruses, fentanyl, and the occasional tsunami, that's hardly a reason to give up one's Doritos. At least if you croak on the couch, the mortuary guys can just scoop you up – remote control still clutched in your cold, dead hand – and dump you at the crematorium. Once there, you will be baked at 1500 degrees like a flaming Betty Crocker Bundt cake.   

But let's get real. You know what they say about advice: Wise men don't need it, and fat men don't heed it. The pharmacist can paint eleventy billion worse-case scenarios of how Gary’s body will rebel if he continues to let his keister take root in his new Wayfair divan. Gary will simply laugh at the mention of exercise: "Sure, I know where the gym is. I drive past it 3 times a week! Har-dee-har-har!" Or "I went to the gym LIKE YOU SAID and tried to deadlift 200 pounds LIKE I DID in the Navy. Wrenched my back! The doctor said to stay off my feet for about 6 weeks. Hey, pass that tub of Cool Whip, will ya!" 

Reality check: Do you plan to live at least until next summer? Then, let's make it easy. First, let's not use the scary word "exercise." There are sneaky ways to integrate the "E" word into your life. You won't have to break your back or kick yourself because you took out a 12-month gym membership and only went once. Second, consider these painless actions to stir up your blood. 1) When you go to the mall, find the farthest parking space, and hoof it. 2) Stand up when you make a phone call to give those butt muscles a stretch. 3) Bolt up the stairs instead of taking the elevator – your legs, knees, and heart will jolt back to life. 4) If to where you are going is less than a mile, put on your cargo shorts and walk briskly to that place – don’t drive. 5) At the very least, don't cradle your bag of Fritos on your lap when you watch TV. Leave it in the kitchen and grab a handful every so often. As Gary turned to leave the pharmacy, the pharmacist said, "Happy couch hunting! That trip sounds like it could be a workout in itself." 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist and writer-in-residence at Rx-Press.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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