Born to be… a couch potato

A couple of years ago I landed at Dulles International Airport at the height of summer, and found myself in the capital of corpulence as tourists from the mid-west squeezed themselves into the subway train with me. It was a scene that Fernando Botero would have been hard put to beat.

It was an eye-opener. And we are travelling down the same road in NZ. In 2002/03 one in three adults was considered overweight (not including obese) and one in five was obese.

Now news that genetic make-up may determine our levels of physical activity and exercise habits.

Recent reports published in Physiological Genomics and the Journal of Heredity show that, “to a certain extent, genes appear to influence the level of physical activity in mice.”

Says University of North Carolina researcher Timothy Lightfoot: “Can you be born a couch potato? In exercise physiology, we didn’t used to think so, but now I would say most definitely you can.”

So now we know, motivation and drive to stay active is programmed in the brain. We can stop beating ourselves up if we shirk the gym. (Mea culpa.) More importnatly, since increasing physical activity is a key part of our national health strategy, we can approach the fight against obesity with a clearer picture of the problem.

[Update: Of course there are those who possess the strength of character to overcome any inherited handicaps when it comes to exercising. Some of these marvellous people even share their experiences so that we lesser mortals might be inspired and emulate them. A great example of that is here.]

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4 Responses to “Born to be… a couch potato”

  1. MacDoctor Says:

    I have a theory that our next stage of evolution is towards the couch-potato life-form. After all couch potatoes tend to breed more, even though they die earlier. Over then next few millennia, our limbs will atrophy (apart from an enlarged thumb to work the remote), our skulls will harbour new fat storage systems, rather than brains and we will develop several stomachs so that we can properly digest a Big Mac.

    I have a particularly evil desire to freeze myself for a hundred thousand years and then use the limbless couch potatoes as skittles in a giant bowling alley… 🙂

  2. AndrewE Says:

    It’s still not really an excuse though is it? It may be harder but it does come down to personal choice.

  3. stephen23 Says:

    At the end of the day, what AndrewE said.

  4. roger nome Says:

    A lot of people don’t know that it’s not about going and exhausting yourself at the gym every day, or running the equivalent of a marathon every week. It just requires knowing a few tricks.

    1) The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism. So to get maximum muscle for minimum effort, do resistance training three times per week. For me this just means doing one set of press-ups three times per week. I’ve been doing this for about 6 months and am up to 50 press ups, and I just keep on stacking on the muscle, and loosing the fat.

    For core work i just do the same number of leg-extension sets every week.

    So in total it only amounts to about 5 minutes of work every couple of days, and I’m trimmer than when I used to run for 30-40 minutes 3 times every week.

    Shame I didn’t learn this stuff sooner!

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