Taking Easy Steps for Better Fitness
Written By: Geri Wohl, CNC
“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live”—by Jim Rohn
With our New Year’s resolutions a figment of the past and more than half the year behind us, let’s focus on some easy steps that can increase your calorie burn and get your body moving.
From early prehistoric times, our bodies are designed to move. We were nomads, roaming and searching for food and shelter. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors were thin because they subsisted on a diet of vegetables, fruit, tubers and some animal meat. Unlike our modern society, they were always on the move. Studies have shown that people who adopt a hunter/gatherer lifestyle typically burn between 600 to 1700 calories per day as opposed to those having a more modern, sedentary lifestyle who burn between 200 to 300 calories per day from physical activity.
Incorporating more exercise or movement benefits us on many levels. More energy, lower stress, increased productivity, improved sleep, better mental outlook and feeling happier are all byproducts of exercise. Physiologically, utilizing your muscles signals the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. The result is more balanced blood sugar levels. Exercise also will aid in boosting your metabolic rate, the rate at which a person burns calories. As we age, the body’s metabolic rate steadily declines. However, adding exercise can significantly decrease this reduction. Cardio and weight training have been shown to reverse this slowing of one’s metabolism.
To lose one pound of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories. Of course, this needs to be balanced with calories consumed by food and calories burned by exercise or movement. As an example, a 150-pound person will burn about 470 calories in one hour of jogging or 300 calories in one hour of walking. For more about calories and weight loss, see my article, “Eating Well to Lose Weight: Exercise and Sleep Does the Body Good.” But, there are simple ways to incorporate movement and light exercise into our every day activities that can increase the amount of calories we burn and have a positive effect on our bodies. The new physical activity guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity and two days of strength training exercises. The time spent can be broken down into short segments even 10 minutes 3x/day is as beneficial as a 30-minute workout.
Some suggestions for simple steps to enhance your fitness:
- Get a pedometer to track your steps during the day. The goal should be over 10,000 steps per day, which amounts to about 500 calories per day.
- Stand or walk while talking on the phone instead of sitting.
- While watching TV, lift some weights to incorporate strength-training exercise instead of being idle or the proverbial couch potato.
- Do 8 to 12 pushups against a wall, abdominal crunches or tricep dips for muscle strengthening during those TV each commercial break that you’d rather skip anyway. With an hour TV show, that’s about 5 sets of pushups or dips.
- Try adding simple squats or other strength building exercises while doing every day chores.
- Park your car in one of the farther parking spots when shopping to increase the amount of walking to your destination.
- If you ride a bus or take a train, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way to your destination.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. This type of climbing is a great low-impact cardio workout. Stair climbing can burn up to 472 calories in one hour for a 130-pound person.
- If your house has more than one level or you work in an office with multiple floors, take the stairs and use a restroom that is on another level or farther away.
- While standing in line, flex abdominal muscles for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. This will work on your core without anyone even noticing.
- While shopping for a small amount of groceries, use your recycled bags to collect your food instead of a shopping cart. You’ll get an extra weight workout.
- While walking, consider light ankle or arm weights to burn more calories and obtain some strength building benefits.
- Instead of meeting a friend for a lunch or dinner date, meet up for a game of golf, tennis or other sport.
- While walking, try listening to an audiobook and you may find that you are so engrossed that you will walk longer than you normally do.
- Explore trails or streets in a new neighborhood. The change of scenery can be refreshing to your mood and encourage you to walk longer.
- Incorporate stretching into your day either by waking up a few minutes early, while watching TV or before going to bed. It will help to lengthen the muscle fibers and help with range of motion.
- Add exercise to your calendar as you would any other appointment. Keep the commitment to yourself. Determine how many exercise sessions to have during the week and reward yourself for attaining your goal.
Remember that proper nutrition and hydration are very important. For more about hydration, see my article, “Eating Well to Lose Weight: Wonders of Water.” Eating a balanced diet with protein to support muscle repair, healthy fats as a source of energy and fiber-rich carbohydrates to support the various body systems will enhance your workouts. Try these summer recipes for a nutrient dense meal that will provide the nutrients needed.
Commit to making small changes to your daily routine. Change your mindset to move more and sit less. All these adjustments add up to a more toned body, a higher metabolism and a more fit YOU!
© Geri Wohl, CNC