The More Movement, The Merrier
December 9, 2014
'Tis the season to eat, drink and make lots of excuses not to exercise. If you're concerned that moving more this season will increase your appetite and lead to weight gain, relax: A study conducted at Brigham Young University suggests that 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous morning movement might actually decrease your motivation to eat. What's more, a study of premenopausal women published in the International Journal of Obesity concluded that doing 30 minutes of intense physical activity daily is associated with a reduction in long-term weight gain.
No matter how good you are about exercising for most of the year, the season's around-the-clock festivities make it difficult to squeeze in regular workouts. Instead of making excuses, spend some time on Sunday evenings to schedule the following week's workouts into your planner and don't feel bad if you have to modify your workout in order to fit it in that time for you. In other words, if you usually run five miles but you don't have time, aim for two or three miles instead. Here are nine more ways to up your EQ (Exercise Quotient) from now until the new year by sneaking in small bursts as time permits.
- Plan activities that involve walking (window shopping, Christmas caroling, museum visits, etc.). Though walking has health benefits at any pace, brisk walking (at least 3 miles per hour) is more beneficial than slow walking for weight control.
- Park on the opposite side of the mall. When you are headed to a store, go the extra mile and park far away even if you see a space nearby and are tempted to nab it. Here is a study featuring value of activity vs. exercise.
- Box More Than Presents. Try boxing as a form of exercise. Short but regular activity breaks can be better than getting it all at once. A study comparing the impact that regular physical activity versus a single longer exercise session had upon insulin and glucose management, found that the short and regular option was better. The researchers tested the impact of 18 activity breaks of 1:40 over a nine hour day versus a single exercise bout of 30 minutes, concluding that the regular physical activity option was better for glucose and insulin responses.
- Turn housecleaning into a workout. Start by moving furniture around when you dust or vacuum and putting things away in high cabinets, which involves stretching and reaching. Also, while scrubbing kitchen and bathroom floors on your hands and knees, see if you can lift and straighten one leg behind you, balancing on one bent knee. Hold for five seconds and switch.
- Less is More. If you're unloading groceries from the car, take just a few bags at a time into the house rather than all of them at once. Carrying laundry up from the basement? Make one trip for colors, another for whites.
- Keep A Fast Pace. Since you're bound to spend more time than usual on your smartphone this season, get up from the chair and pace while you talk. Scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, muscles relax and the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent, and within a couple hours of sitting, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20 percent. Even standing in place burns more calories than sitting.
- Samba or Swing. Learning dance steps engages your brain and tones your lower body. The next time someone asks what you want for the holidays, request dance classes. Here's why: Dancing integrates several brain functions at once—kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional—further increasing your neural connectivity.
- Give Yourself a Lift. When watching It's a Wonderful Life, Frosty the Snowman or other seasonal favorites, keep a set of hand weights within reach of your flat-screen and use them. Do three sets each of 12-15 of stationary lunges, bent over rows and shoulder presses while getting into the holiday spirit.
- Let it snow! If you're lucky enough to live where there's snow on the ground, shoveling (340 calories/hour*), sledding (408 calories/hour*) or ice skating (408 calories/hour*) on a frozen pond are all great ways to burn calories.
- Take Ten. Pressed for time? Just 10 minutes of jumping rope works arms, legs and rear—and burns major calories. Interval workouts (alternating high intensity moves with short rest breaks) are a great way to increase metabolic activity and burn calories, so alternate one minute of jumping rope with one minute of walking in place. Another jump rope perk: It fits easily into a suitcase if you're traveling.
* Calorie burn is for 150-pound individual.
As you navigate your holiday schedule, remember that when time is limited to just a couple of free minutes every now and then, that time can be used to make a valuable impact on your health and wellness.
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