Get more out of your life and your workouts!
Whether you exercise because you love or because you hate your body, because you want to lose weight, look good or simply feel good and get the most out of your life, here are some smart ways to maximize your workouts and your health!
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
While non-exercise activity thermogenesis sounds like some bizarre metabolic process in the body, its meaning is actually very simple: spontaneous activity. Every time you stand up and move, you’re involved in spontaneous activity and you know what else? You’re also burning calories. We haven’t paid much attention to NEAT until recently because none of us realized how much non-activity contributed to our weight problems. Now, researchers know that simple movement is one of the keys to losing weight. People are so focused on structured exercise and target heart rate zones they forget that general activity can be a huge contributor to weight loss. Want to know how much of a difference you could make if you moved around more? In one study, 20 self-proclaimed couch potatoes were studied to determine how different activity levels contributed to different levels of weight. One group of volunteers (5 men and 5 women) had an average BMI of 23 (lean), while the other 10 men and women had an average BMI of 33 (mildly obese). The obese group sat for 164 minutes longer each day than the lean group. The lean people were upright for 153 minutes longer than the obese people. The lean group burned an average of 350 extra calories each day (36 lbs a year) by walking and standing more throughout the day. Though neither group did any structured exercise, the lean group burned extra calories just by moving around more – no sweating required. This proves that the advice you’ve heard a million times (e.g., take the stairs, walk around more) really does make a difference and can contribute to your weight loss just as much as structured exercise, albeit more slowly.
To maximize the calories you burn with NEAT, you simply need to move around more: Stand up every chance you get, walk everywhere. Pace when you’re on the phone, visit your co-workers instead of emailing them or use a pedometer and see how many steps you can get in each day. When at the mall, make three laps around the mall before you can buy anything. When you park the car, make a complete circuit around the parking lot before entering the building. When carrying groceries, bring the bags in one bag at a time. If you’re stuck sitting for long periods of time, change position, shift in your seat or even do some isometric exercises – squeeze your hands together, contract your abs or squeeze your glutes. Hide the remote control and get up to change the channel. Sit on an exercise ball and roll around while you watch TV or work at the computer.
Add More Muscle
We all know muscle is more metabolically active than fat but there’s some confusion over just how many calories a pound of muscle actually burns. Having more muscle can have a lasting impact on both weight loss and health. If you look at the fact that most people will gain about 2-5 lbs of muscle from strength training, and that each pound will burn about 15 calories per day, that’s 30-75 extra calories burned each day. That may not seem like a big deal, but 75 calories adds up to almost 8 lbs a year. Not too shabby, right? And don’t forget, lifting weights also strengthens the bones and connective tissue, helps protect you from injury and, of course, helps prevent weight gain and loss of functionality that can occur from loss of muscle mass as we age. Just like NEAT, adding more muscle makes a big impact when you look at the big picture. You just need to make sure you’re lifting regularly and challenging yourself.
How often you train your muscles depends on your goals and the type of workouts you’re doing. If you’re focusing on fitness and weight loss, try to get 2-3 sessions a week for each muscle group and make sure you take a day or two of rest between workouts to allow your muscles to recover.
Challenge your muscles! This may seem obvious, often we don’t lift enough weight to overload their muscles, which is necessary for building lean muscle tissue. Choose a weight that you can ONLY lift for the desired number of reps – the last rep should be difficult, but not impossible.
The most effective strength moves involve multiple muscles and multiple joints. These compound movements (e.g., squats, lunges, pushups, etc.) allow you to lift more weight and burn more calories because you’re using the large muscles of the body.
The body will always adapt to what you’re doing but you can avoid that and continue progressing by changing different elements of your workouts. You can do this by changing your method of training, or by changing your exercises, reps, sets and/or type of resistance.
Whatever program or schedule you choose, work hard and really challenge your muscles to get the most out of your workouts.