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What Is a Couch Potato?

Physical inactivity comes from watching TV, using the computer, and playing video games.
People who watch television and movies extensively are sometimes called "couch potatoes."
The social stigma attached to the couch potato label may relate to the negative effects that inactivity can have on a person's health.
A couch potato may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.
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  • Written By: K. K. Lowen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2014
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Couch potato is a colloquial term used frequently in the United States to describe an inactive person. Traditionally, adults who watch a considerable amount of television were the most likely recipients of the label, but in recent years the term has become a common description for people of all ages who frequently engage in sedentary activities, such as heavy video game or Internet use. The label generally carries a negative connotation.

Social stigma attached to the couch potato label may relate to the negative effects that inactivity can have on a person’s health. A sedentary lifestyle can cause obesity and increase the risk of disease. People who do not receive enough exercise may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. The belief that sedentary people are lazy may contribute to the term’s negative connotation as well.

Although sedentary jobs can also have a negative impact on health, the term generally applies to people who engage in recreational activities that require them to sit for long periods of time. Those who have sedentary jobs and are inactive in their free time may compound the health risks and increase the likelihood of attracting the couch potato label. A person who has an active job but prefers a sedentary form of entertainment may be called a couch potato as well.

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Watching television extensively is a very common characteristic of people who receive the couch potato label. Soap operas, sporting events, and other programming that tends to gain long-term viewers may be mentioned frequently in conjunction with the term. People who take part in other sedentary activities, such as reading, may not receive the label as often as those who watch television.

Although people do not usually sit on a couch while using a computer, people who use computers for considerable periods of time are sometimes referred to as couch potatoes. Heavy computer use can cause the same inactivity that television causes. Those who utilize computers or Internet technology for work usually do not receive the couch potato label, but it may be applied to some people who use the technology for pleasure, such as video game enthusiasts.

The term has become an increasingly popular description for children. Many young people in the United States and elsewhere have begun playing outdoors less, which some researchers believe to be the result of increased access to technology. The popularity of video games and television may also lead children to sit inside more often. Couch potato children, like their adult counterparts, may suffer from a lack of exercise. They may become heavier than their active peers and have a higher risk of disease.

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