Your living room has been your gym – and the TV, remote control and sofa your exercise equipment – ever since you’ve completed national service (or worse, since you left school), it’s time to review your fitness regime. Here are seven simple tips to help you get off your derriere and work towards a fitter, healthier body.
WORK OUT FOR JUST 10 MINUTES
If you think you’re too busy to exercise, you have to fix that attitude. Try this: For one day, schedule a time to work out, and then stick to it – even if you can only exercise for 10 minutes, or do just 20 push-ups and crunches. “At the end of the day, ask yourself if you were any less productive than usual,” says John Jakicic, an exercise psychologist at Brown University in the US. The answer will probably be no.
Benefit You’ll realise that your favourite excuse is gone. And when that happens, it’s time to increase the frequency and duration of your workouts.
GET ACTIVE FOR 15 MINUTES EVERY MORNING
Remember how those daily pre-dawn 5BX sessions kept you fit and lean during your NS? Well, you don’t have to relive those days if you don’t want to. For a set period of, say, four weeks – force yourself to get up 15 minutes earlier than usual and do any type of physical activity (like walking, for instance). “Make it so easy that you don’t even have to change into your workout clothes,” says John Raglin, PhD, an exercise researcher.
Benefit At the end of the four weeks, you’ll have a new habit and will be able to progress to greater amounts of exercise.
WALK FOR 20 MINUTES AFTER DINNER
There’s more than enough scientific evidence to prove that given the countless benefits of walking (and other cardio exercises), it should be incorporated into our daily lives. Yet, in a recent Dutch study, researchers found that as technology advances, we are becoming more sedentary. On average, our ancestors in the 19th century were 1.6 times more active – walking 8km to 12km more a day – than we are. After dinner, instead of lounging on the couch and letting your mind go blank in front of the TV, take a 20-minute walk around your estate. Do this at least three times a week.
Benefit Research has shown that a 20-minute walk can help you burn up to 100 calories – nearly 50 more than if you were to just sit around.
TAKE ON THE HOUSEHOLD CHORES
After studying the fitness levels of nearly 1,000 people and the neatness of their homes, researchers at Indiana University in the US reported that those with tidier homes got more physical activity and, thus, were in better physical condition. Furthermore, the study also reported that the neater a home, the greater the likelihood its residents were adopting a more active lifestyle. To impress the missus and work off some of those after-dinner calories at the same time, spend 15 minutes doing the dishes.
Benefit It’ll help you burn an extra 30 calories compared to if you were to just hit the sofa.
CYCLE FOR GROCERIES
Leave the car at home and use the bicycle (and backpack) the next time you’re out to get a few items from the convenience store. Not only will you be doing your part to go “green”, you’ll also be getting the benefits of a moderate cardio workout and improving your overall fitness, says UK-based cycling coach Dan Bennet. To get the most out of a 15-minute ride to the grocery store, he suggests teaching your legs to do short bursts of fast riding. Do a quick warm-up before you set off. Then alternate between 15-second bursts at full pace and 15 seconds of recovery at a slow pace. Do this for 5 minutes, then ride at a normal pace for another 5 minutes. Keep alternating for the entire ride. For a greater challenge, do the same while on your ride back from the store with a backpack full of groceries. Just make sure all your stuff is securely packed before you speed home.
Benefit This alternating fast-slow pedalling technique provides a great cardio workout, and can singe nearly 180 calories in a mere 15 minutes.
PLAY YOURSELF FIT
Rather than be a mere spectator, get engaged in your favourite sport, such as football. A recent study by Danish researchers found that just three months of football practice twice a week is significantly more effective at lowering your risk of high blood pressure, zapping body fat and improving overall fitness than simply eating healthy and jogging. “When untrained people (read: weekend warriors) play football, their pulse rate remains high when they perform multiple intense actions such as sprints, kicks, tackles and body feints,” says research leader Professor Peter Krustrup.
Benefit Playing football offers a good combination of cardio and strength training,” adds Prof Krustrup. Moreover, it can help burn as many as 800 calories in an hour.
WAKE UP TO WATER
Any fitness plan would be incomplete without the element of nutrition. But the good thing is, you don’t have to drastically shake up your diet. All that’s needed: Drink 500ml of chilled water when you wake up every morning. And guzzle at least three litres of water over the course of a day, especially if you’re now going to exercise more frequently.
Benefit German scientists found that drinking 500ml of chilled water boosts metabolism by up to 24 per cent for 90 minutes afterwards. (A smaller amount had no effect.) Moreover, a previous study determined that muscle cells grow faster when they’re well hydrated.