Students Staff

16 July 2012

Avoid being an Olympic couch potato

With wall to wall sport on television all summer, personal fitness may be taking a back seat but Dr Valerie Gladwell, a Sports Scientist from the University of Essex, has some top tips on stopping yourself turning into a couch potato.

Dr Gladwell said: “With the Olympics and Paralympics following on from Euro 2012 and Wimbledon, sports fans may well be putting their own fitness to one side, but there is plenty you can do to keep active without moving too far from the TV.”

Dr Gladwell, senior lecturer in Sports and Exercise Science in the School of Biological Sciences, has been advising the Wellcome Trust over the last two years on their In the Zone project.

One of the aims of this £5 million project is to create an Olympic legacy of an interest in science and movement. Every school in the country has been sent kit to carry out scientific experiments related to human physiology, which, Dr Gladwell hopes, will spark enthusiasm for children to know more about their bodies which may encourage them to engage in exercise and sport.

Dr Gladwell’s top tips for keeping fit over this summer are:

  • Get moving: when ball sports are on the TV why not stand up and sit down every time the ball goes out of play? Every time a goal is scored stand up and sit down twice (you probably do this anyway). Make up your own triggers to inspire you to stand and move.
  • Get the balance: balance is a key part of keeping us healthy – how long can you stand on one leg? What about the other? What about if you listen to the TV with your eyes closed?
  • Get active: while watching a swim or run race do some activities for the whole duration, squats, lunges, press-ups or even get some tins out of the cupboard and do some arm curls. There are loads of exercises you can do without any equipment. Strength training is key to your healthy active week.
  • Get inspired: when nothing is on the TV, organise a social gathering with your friends and family in local park. Make up some races, an obstacle course or play a friendly game of football, rounders or cricket. Most of all, have some fun.
  • Go the distance: during the Olympics, how far can you run, cycle (you can even do this on the Wii). Why not get the workplace involved? Your company could try to walk/run/cycle or swim the distance to Rio (Olympic venue for 2016) or why not challenge another company?
  • Get the crunch: so easy to reach for the crisps and the takeaways. Try popcorn or fruit and veg with dips including houmous, fat free yoghurt or even a little melted chocolate. Plan your meals and make quick and easy stir fry (frozen veg is part of your five a day, if you haven’t time for shopping.
  • Get involved: there are loads of sports clubs out there with many activities on offer including the more well known sports or different ones like Frisbee Golf or modern pentathlon. There are lots of local walking groups to join in too. Most clubs and gyms will be offering discounts and taster sessions for you to give it a go.

And, after all this summer of sport, Dr Gladwell hopes people will be inspired to take up sport on a regular basis: “Whether it’s the more traditional sport of running, cricket, less well known sports or just walking about or playing in the park, anything that encourages people to get out is really important. Everyone is different and likes different things but a fitter, healthier nation who enjoys physical activity would be the best Olympic legacy.”


Notes to Editors

For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office at: or telephone 01206 872400.

The University’s logo is going gold in celebration of London 2012 and will be on display on the main webpage and all social media throughout the Olympics and Paralympics, from Monday 2 July to Sunday 9 September.

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