Thanks to the rise of the gig economy and all things Internet, the true meaning of the term “couch potato” has really widened. The phrase doesn’t just define people who chill at home and binge on Netflix anymore. People who work home-based jobs can easily be highly-functioning couch potatoes, and so can the unlucky ones who have to slog into the office Monday through Friday, only to sit all day at a desk.
Whether you’re a couch potato because of work or, well, because you just don’t like to exercise, there are some supplements and other strategies that can help you ward off the health risks of laziness. (But not entirely; that “Exercise Pill” you’ve heard about isn’t perfected yet.)
Is there a pill to completely do away with exercise?
Back in the 1990s, a chemical biologist at a giant pharma company experimented with a drug dubbed “516.” The results were mind-blowing. Obese monkeys began showing signs of lower “bad” cholesterol and insulin levels upon taking the drug, as if they had been exercising regularly. However, the company shelved the drug because of negative long-term toxicity reports.
Cut to 2018, and 516 is still being carefully researched, (in-vitro and on lab mice), and tweaked to reduce the risks found in the original experiments. A study with two lab mice found that the one given 516 turned out leaner and had better overall health than its lazy counterpart not given the drug. The drug had given the mouse all the effects of regular physical exercise without him having to move a muscle.
This drug has not yet been approved for safe use, so steer clear of any products that say they include 516. Instead, opt for these supplements and other techniques.
Vitamin C and exercise
One preliminary study had overweight participants consume 500 mg of Vitamin C. This eventually led to improvement in blood vessel tone. What does that imply? Vitamin C supplements may help mimic certain effects of physical exercise without requiring you to move a muscle.
But before you call and cancel your gym membership, here’s the giant caveat: the researchers pointed out minimal aerobic exercises can bring about way more change, and the Vitamin C supplement was not an equivalent to exercise in a pill form. While the findings might be great for people who can’t quite exercise enough to meet the daily recommendations every day, we need to stress the minimal physical effects of taking Vitamin C as compared to actual exercise.
Plus, high levels this vitamin have been known to cause diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps—and those certainly won’t compel you to get moving.
Vitamin B for an energy boost
A number of physically inactive people stay that way mainly because of a lack of energy. The will to hit the gym may be strong, but if you’re feeling lethargic, the battle to exercise might have already been lost. Drinking plenty of water is one way to keep fatigue at bay. And B12 supplements can help you reduce tiredness and increase energy levels.
Protein alone won’t do the trick
Supplements like B12 will give you an energy boost, but there’s currently no drug out there that can take exercise out of the equation. And that brings us to another common misconception: that you can skip exercise if you take protein supplements. (Hint: this isn’t true.)
Research suggests that loading up on a protein shake doesn’t mean you don’t have to exercise. Without exercise, you run the risk of putting on excess weight because of casual supplement usage. And plus, the whole point of protein supplements is to help you maximize your health, and you can’t do that without regular physical activity.
Exercise is still necessary
You don’t have to hit the gym daily to shed the couch potato tag and embrace better health. Even the simplest of exercises can improve your fitness. A straightforward exercise, for example, is going from sitting to standing 10 times in a row. It might not seem like a lot but you’re actually working your thighs and getting active. You can also try standing on one leg and using your chair to maintain balance. Hold the pose for 30 seconds and repeat the exercise with the other leg.
If you find yourself slouching, one way to drop your hunching habit is to try an anti-shrug shoulder pinching exercise. You bring your shoulders together and stay in that position for about fifteen seconds before releasing.
And luckily for couch potatoes, technology is also enabling a more fitness-centric workplace. Imagine if your back starts aching at work and, instead of calling it a day, you visit the in-office wellness provider who assesses the situation and provides a quick fix. One startup is doing exactly that.
Sedentariness at work is the biggest factor that leads to physical complications. The startup Exos is helping corporate “non-movers” get back on track. With the use of ultra-modern sensor machines and pain-assessment technology, you can find out exactly what’s causing the problem and expedite a solution—all without having to leave the office building. This might just help professional couch potatoes stay active.
We’re all couch potatoes at some point in our day-to-day lives, but problems start to crop up when we stop exercising altogether. Even going for a walk around your house can help ward off the health risks of a couch potato lifestyle. Just make sure you do it regularly—even if you’d secretly rather be binging on Netflix or being your normal sedentary self.