C ongrats on getting started! We know what’s running through your mind: How do I get to my fitness goals faster? This is hard. Hack my workout, please! First, if you haven’t yet read our fitness-goal tips, they’re here and here.
- Show up
- Baby Steps
Top Four Fun Workout Hacks
#1 Doing squats while watching TV or even brushing your teeth
Why? Because squats are hard, and newbies can’t wait to finish them even before they start. So hey, I’ll distract myself and it’s all done after I brush and gargle! But a squat is an important compound exercise and one of the foundations of fitness. A compound exercise involves multiple muscle groups and joints. When you squat, you work your quads, hams, glutes, core, lower back, pelvic girdle, knees, calves and ankles. As you can see, there’s plenty to go wrong if you’re trying to *not* do it by brushing your teeth at the same time. Pay attention! Strike good form and you’ll reap the rewards of lower body strength and flexibility. Then cruise towards your workout goals – and daily life – as smoothly as a high-powered luxury limo.Takeaway #1: Squat for success but brush your teeth first.
#2 Refuse VIP parking privileges
Your body is made for motion, so it’s great if you don’t have parking privileges at the gym or office and, especially the mall! Park further away – always in a safe space, in a secured and guarded parking lot – and walk, even if it’s only 100 metres extra (it all adds up). You’ll get there quicker, too, by avoiding the mini-jam for the spaces nearest the entrance. We like this hack a lot because research shows that regular walking, (and by extension, movement) can lower blood pressure and modify the nervous system so that we’re less angry and resentful. Start the day in a good mood. Just put your best foot forward.Takeaway #2: A walk a day keeps the doctor away.
#3 Use the stairs
This is a tricky one. The usual advice is to do park, walk and take the stairs instead of the lift. If you can successfully combine walking and stair-climbing, you’d be Rocky Balboa already. But for most of us not in training for a world boxing title, we start with a step at a time. If you’ve walked from the car and are warmed up, start out with one or two flights at first, or about 10 minutes or less. If you don’t feel warmed up, it’s highly advisable to start with light stretches of hams and quads, and a set of knee and ankle rotations. Rest in between floors if you feel out of breath, then be sure to cool down after your climb. Research shows that stair-climbing boosts energy, is great for heart health, and can help prevent diabetes, besides basic physiological benefits. But remember: don’t run up the stairs before you learn how to walk it well. Or join a basic Step Aerobics class.Takeaway #3: Don’t rush on your way up to your fitness goals.
#4 Use a fitness ball as an office chair
This hack has been around since the early 2000s, and remains popular. The fitness ball-office chair is said to engage your core muscles and burn calories while you’re sedentary. Exercise without exercising! Several research studies have since concluded that the gains of sitting on a fitness ball instead of an ergonomic office chair are marginal, at best, and may even be detrimental to your health and a workplace hazard. The considered advice is to have a ball at the gym, and not at the office.
But there’s a very important message here about the ill-effects of sedentary behaviour, especially over time. As we said (see #2 above), your body is made for motion. One analysis of long-term studies shows that 65-70 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day is needed to compensate for sitting too long in the office. You should take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Put that into your phone app or fitness tracker.Takeaway #4: Don’t sit there trying to look busy. Get up and move as often as you can. Your health depends on it.