With the recent closures of gyms and kitchens open 24/7 — plus the temptation to binge-watch the latest TV series — it’s no wonder so many of us may have put on weight.
As millions quarantined at home in cozy clothes, jokes began circulating online about the “COVID 19,” a new take on the college “freshman 15.” Indulging more and not moving as much is the perfect recipe for weight gain.
But now is the perfect time to reverse the trend. With the new re-openings happening, use your time to get moving again. These fit tips can help you start shedding any pounds you’ve gained while at home.
Combine Exercise with Diet
It’s tough to lose weight without cutting calories, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most weight loss occurs when people consume fewer calories. Consider: For the average 154-pound person, one hour of brisk walking burns off just 290 calories, which is the same number of calories in one Dunkin Donuts apple crumb donut.
One could argue: That’s a lot of effort for just one donut. The gist? You can’t easily exercise off extra pounds without making changes to your eating habits.
To lose weight and keep it off, you’ll need to do a high amount of physical activity unless you also reduce the amount of calories you’re eating and drinking, which may be a more realistic option. To figure out where you can cut calories while still maintaining a healthy diet, consider keeping a food diary for a few days by writing down everything you eat.
A food diary can help you spot and avoid mindless eating — those calories that might sneak in, for example, when you’re watching TV. But generally, to cut calories, the CDC suggests eating food high in fiber, making better drink choices, avoiding large portion sizes, and adding more fruits and vegetables to your eating plan. For more ideas on eating a healthier diet, check out this post.
Your Goal: At Least 22 Minutes of Daily Physical Activity
While you’re cutting calories, the CDC recommends working your way up to at least 150 minutes a week of moderately intense aerobic activity. This equals:
- About 22 minutes each day or 50 minutes three times per week, or
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, or
- An equivalent mix of the two each week
There are lots of ways to add at least 22 minutes of movement to your day. You’re in the moderately intense exercise zone if you’re breathing harder and faster, but you can still carry on a conversation. Examples of moderately intense activities include:
- Actively playing with your kids
- Biking at a casual pace (less than 10 mph)
- Brisk walking — a 15-minute mile pace
- Light yard work
These moderately intense physical activities will burn 140 to 185 calories in 30 minutes for the average 154-pound person.
To make sure you’ll stick with it, the CDC recommends picking physical activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. For a breath of fresh air, check out these ideas on how to exercise outside right now. Of course, depending on your situation, you may need to be creative. If you can’t get outside to take a walk, ride your bike or play with the kids, maybe you can march in place while watching TV or find a workout video online.
Pick Up the Pace
If you’d like to burn more calories in the same amount of time, vigorous physical activities will get the job done. If you can, pushing yourself is an even more efficient way to shed excess pounds. For example, the average 154-pound person will burn 295 calories in 30 minutes of running/jogging or bicycling, compared with 140 to 145 calories expended when bicycling or walking more leisurely.
Other examples of vigorous activities and big calorie burners include:
- Aerobics (240 calories/30 minutes)
- Basketball (220 calories/30 minutes)
- Swimming (255 calories/30 minutes)
- Walking fast (230 calories/30 minutes)
Again, feel free to be creative and pick vigorous activities you enjoy. Maybe it’s jumping rope, in-line skating, heavy yard work or a high-intensity interval workout on YouTube. Whatever you choose, you’re on the right track if you’re breathing too hard and fast to have a conversation.
Work in Weekly Weight-Training Sessions
To round out your workout routine, be sure to strength train at least twice a week. The CDC recommends lifting weights to work all major muscle groups, including your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Strength training helps you to maintain muscle mass and bone strength, which is especially important as you get older.
For health benefits, it’s important to lift weights or do muscle-strengthening activities like push-ups to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition equals one complete movement, such as doing one sit-up or lifting and lowering a weight.
Aim for eight to 12 repetitions per activity, which counts as one set. Try to do at least one set of muscle-strengthening activities, working up to two or three sets per session. Until you can get back to the gym, a set of hand weights, resistance bands or exercises that use your own body weight can help you strength train at home.
Squats, for example, are a great exercise for strengthening hips, thighs and buttocks that can make walking, jogging and climbing stairs easier. All you’ll need is a chair. Here’s how:
- Stand directly in front of a sturdy chair with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart
- Extend your arms so they’re parallel to the ground
- With your weight more on your heels than on the balls of your feet, bend your knees as you slowly lower your buttocks toward the chair while you count to four
- Pause, and then slowly rise back up to a standing position as you count to two
Keep your knees over your ankles and your back straight. Repeat the squat 10 times, which equals one set. Rest for about one minute. Then complete a second set of 10 squats.
For more ideas on strength-training exercises you can do at home, download the CDC’s book Growing Stronger.
Focus on the Perks of Physical Activity: Better Health
Besides helping you get stronger and shed excess pounds, regular physical activity can make a big impact on your overall health. Physical activity helps to reduce:
- Arthritis pain and disability associated with arthritis
- High blood pressure
- The risk for heart attack, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and several forms of cancer
- The risk for osteoporosis and falls
- Symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Even a small weight loss can result in big health benefits. According to the CDC, losing just 5 to 10% of your total body weight is likely to improve blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. If you weigh 200 pounds, for example, losing just 5% (10 pounds) can decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases associated with obesity, such as heart attack, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
Make It a Habit
Only half of adults get the physical activity they need to help reduce and prevent chronic disease. To count yourself among them — and increase your chances of maintaining your progress over time — the CDC recommends taking steps to make physical activity a habit, such as:
Pick a time to exercise that works for you. Maybe it’s after the kids have gone to bed or early in the morning. Choose a time when you feel energetic.
Work physical activity into your daily routine. For example, if you’re working from home, could you walk and move around during conference calls? Could you squeeze in an exercise session every night while you’re watching TV?
Make friends with other active people. Maybe you can’t work out together because of social distancing, but there’s nothing stopping you from comparing notes. When a friend says, “I walked five miles today,” that might motivate you to walk five miles, too.
And keep in mind that moving forward, the exercise habits you hone now can help keep those pounds from coming back. According to the CDC, regular physical activity has been proven to be the only way to maintain weight loss.
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