On your journey to health, thinking about the big tasks of nutritious eating or a 90-minute gym session can seem overwhelming. But remember that it’s not all about the grand gestures — little changes can also make a difference.
“People forget that the gym isn’t the only place where health can happen,” said Angela Smith, a certified personal trainer at SamFit in Albany. “There are lots of little things you can incorporate into your day that can help you burn an extra 100 or 200 calories. Over time, those changes really add up even if it means that you’re just being more mindful about moving.”
The basic principle is that if you’re moving, you’re burning more calories than if you’re not. Try incorporating these tricks to burn more calories all day long:
• Start your day with a burst of energy. When you roll out of bed, do two minutes of jumping jacks, push-ups, squats and lunges to get your heart pumping and jump-start your metabolism for the day.
• Add five more minutes to the end of your workout. If you’re on the treadmill, go five more minutes. If you’re out for a walk, pass by your house and circle back when you reach the end of the block.
• Join the resistance. Resistance training builds muscle and helps your body burn energy at a higher rate even when you’re doing nothing. Smith recommends two sessions a week using resistance bands, free weights or weight machines.
• Get a boost every hour. Set your phone to alert you every hour. When the timer goes off, do one minute of vigorous activity like climbing stairs or the jumping jacks and lunges you used to start your day. Smith said getting up and moving around every hour is a good idea anyway but adding some intense activity helps keep your metabolism high all day long.
• Swap your desk chair for an exercise ball. The switch will mean that your muscles will be working to keep you balanced and upright, which burns more calories. If an exercise ball isn’t practical for your office, try doing leg lifts under your desk while you work.
• Take the long route. If you have to go to the bathroom, use the one on the third floor. When you check the mailbox, circle the block first. And when you’re heading to the grocery store, park at the back of the lot.
• Chew gum when mid-afternoon snack cravings hit. A study in the journal Appetite found that chewing gum reduced the desire for sweets and overall calorie intake.
• Don’t just stand there. When you have to stand for long periods, find ways to work in exercise. Do calf raises in line to check out at the grocery store, and squats while you cook and do dishes.
• Walk briskly. Smith recommends walking as if you are late to something, no matter where you’re going.
• Sit on the floor to read or watch TV. The energy it takes to hold yourself up is greater than when you collapse in a heap on the couch. You could even do some gentle stretching exercises while you sit.
• Get enough sleep. It might seem counterintuitive, but according to an article in the journal Sleep, people who got seven to eight hours of sleep a night were less likely to gain weight and had a lower risk of developing obesity than those who slept less or more over a period of six years. Researchers speculate that being tired can lead to poor dietary choices and less physical activity.
“Finding ways to improve your health throughout your day and not keeping it restricted to the gym is a great mindset to have,” said Smith. “Once you start looking, you can probably find lots of ways to add more fitness and feel stronger in your daily life.”