I know that we all live busy lives, and frankly, incorporating exercise into our daily routine can feel like an unnecessary hassle. But in truth, even a little bit of added movement can go a long way to improving our weight, physical health and even our mental health. While I know that some of you derive great enjoyment from exercise, others may struggle to find the same satisfaction. For those of you in the second group, I challenge you to set aside your preconceptions; try something new that sparks an interest. Remember, being active does not have to mean running on a treadmill. Take time this spring to explore the endless options available to you.
For example, if you enjoy listening to music, take a dance or Zumba class; alternatively, make a fun playlist to accompany you on walks. When the ground thaws, gardening can be a form of exercise. You will strengthen your leg muscles as you bend down to your plants. If you like walking, hike Gatineau or explore an unfamiliar neighbourhood. We can begin to look forward to exercise as “me time”, instead of “another thing we have to do”, if we find the right form of exercise for us as individuals.
Alternatively, if you are looking to increase or change up your exercise regime, make a goal of doing three twenty-minute sessions of resistance strength training per week. Numerous studies have demonstrated that resistance training (using our body weight or weights/bands) can have tremendous impact on our weight and the rate at which we burn calories. As we know, our bodies burn calories as we workout, and this holds true for strength training. However, unlike other forms of exercise, when we perform resistance exercises, our bodies continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after we have finished our workouts! Most importantly, strength training builds muscle, which act as big calorie burners on their own, even when we aren’t using them. This means that as we build more muscle through strength training, our bodies will burn more calories, just by nature of having more muscle!
You might be asking “What kind of strength training should I be doing?” Well, the goal is to work the major muscle groups in each of the sessions: leg, core, chest and shoulders/arms. You can do your whole strength routine at home, if you choose.
Here are some ideas. Feel free to research other exercises on your own.
• Legs: Chair Sits
Practice standing up and sitting down in a chair, without using your hands for support, if possible. For a more challenging workout remove the chair, and perform squats without support. Remember: your knees should not pass your toes when you are doing these workouts!
• Core: Crunches
Lie down on your back and gently lift your shoulders off the floor towards your feet. You don’t need to do a full sit-up as long as your can feel the muscles in your stomach contracting. Tip: Crunch using your stomach muscles, not your neck muscles!
• Chest: Chest Raises
Still lying on your back, hold a weight straight above your head in your outstretched arms. Then slowly, lower the weight to the floor behind your head keeping your arms slightly bent. Finally, return the weight to a vertical position above your head. Don’t have weights? That’s fine. Use a can of soup or a small bag of flour.
• Arms and Shoulders: Shoulder Press
To work your arms and shoulders, bend your arms to 90 degrees, and raise them to shoulder height. You should be in a square “Y” shape. From this position, smoothly raise weights above your head and return your hands to the starting position.
Aim for 8 -12 reps of each these exercises and then repeat the whole routine a total of three times. With a little practice, the whole schedule should take less than twenty minutes! Even a routine as simple as this one can impact our body composition: decreasing fat and increasing our muscle mass.
So, I encourage you to develop an exercise routine that suits you. Start small if you wish, and most importantly, find something that you enjoy. Remember that every journey begins with a single step, and we are here to support you along your way!