You don’t have to sweat it out in the gym (and pay the exorbitant fees!) to maintain your fitness levels – there are lots of ways to stay active, fit and healthy without having to step foot in the gym.
You may think raking up leaves or planting flowers won’t do you much good as far as fitness is concerned but, typically, an hour of gardening can burn between 300 and 600 calories. Lifting a wheelbarrow, digging holes and reaching for weeds all tone the arms and legs, along with back and shoulder muscles. Any exercise that can be sustained for a minimum of 30 minutes will help build muscle and burn calories just as much a Pilates session at the gym. Gardening will certainly improve flexibility and strengthen joints, while giving your garden a fresh look at the same time.
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Nobody looks forward to the extra housework at this time of year but the silver lining is that you can count it towards your calorie-burning regimen. Sweeping, mopping the floor and dusting high-reaching corners are all good for your muscle flexibility and can actually awaken some muscles that are usually asleep during the year spent in a sedentary state.
“When I carry my baby on my back while doing dishes, I realise just how much work it is to maintain a home,” says Nomzamo, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom of two. “It feels as if I’m lifting weights at a training session at the gym,” she says. Lifting furniture, when done with caution and care, can really improve your strength and conditioning, so do not be afraid to get active at home.
You don’t have to be in gym tights and sneakers to get in a great cardio session. Hitting the dance floor is an amazing aerobic exercise that helps to support heart health, burn some fat and allow you to have fun while doing so. If you’re great with your moves, your legs, glutes and hamstrings can really benefit.
If you’ve ever felt really great after working out it’s probably because of the balancing effects that exercise has on our hormones. According to Harvard Health Publishing, exercise reduces the levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
A large shopping mall can typically cover between 100 000 to 150 000 square metres. Walking briskly at the mall can help you achieve your daily step goal. Park your car far from the main entrances or far from the shops you’ll be visiting to make sure you’re doing enough walking. Try using the stairs instead of elevators and escalators to really maximise your time at the mall.
Standing is also an important component of fitness so do not get discouraged in long queues as this is helping your overall health profile. This is great news, since most employed South Africans spend the bulk of their working days in a sedentary state, hunched over computer screens. Time off this routine can really help correct your posture and improve flexibility as well as get your blood circulation going.
The great outdoors
If you’re going away for the holidays, try to include some physical activities to your itinerary. Guided tours that include a lot of walking, hiking, running on the beach, visiting theme parks and local parks are all things we usually don’t have time for during the year. This is the best time to actually try out some new activities that you could include during the course of next year.
Keep nutrition in mind
All the holiday menus planned including fresh desserts, breads and biscuits will surely test your will power to avoid overindulging. It would be unreasonable to tell anyone to stay away from all the delicious food served during the holidays but it is also important to remember that overindulging is never good for your fitness goals.
Try packing a few of your own healthier snacks to bring and share parties to avoid snacking on unhealthier options. Choosing a meal to indulge on without guilt is better than eating everything in sight due to poor preparation. Eating a small snack before a major meal like Christmas lunch, a family braai or New Year’s Eve celebration will help control your sugar levels which contribute to unhealthy and frequent cravings.
Stay hydrated by opting for water over fizzy drinks and sugary juices. Make a deal with yourself that although this is a time to relax, indulge and have fun, you need to plan the meals you have control over and not overindulge.
If you do get time to squeeze in a power workout, be sure to try out a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. A HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. This form of exercise is extremely popular with time-starved workout fanatics because of the metabolic boost and calorie burning long after the workout is complete. The best thing about HIIT is that you can do it at home, in your hotel room and at the gym.
Make fitness part of your routine this holiday season to ensure you’re ready to smash your New Year’s goals right from the beginning of the year.
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