RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Not having a gym membership is always an easy excuse not to exercise, especially when the weather gets cold. It's an even more convenient excuse during the holidays when we're both time- and cash-strapped, and not in the mood to spend holiday budgets on daily sweat sessions.
Of course, the reality is that exercise can help us cope with all that extra holiday stress—along with the holiday overeating—and it doesn’t need to cost a penny, or even require a gym. This week, toss the excuses aside and explore ways to burn calories outside of the gym, whether you have a membership or not. According to the founders of the Healthy Monday Campaign, Mondays are perfect days to begin forming new healthy habits.
Here are a few gym-free fitness ideas to get started:
• Exercise outside, especially when it's cold. As we adjust to the colder temperature, our bodies burn additional calories, rendering a ten minute walk in cold weather worth as much as 7 percent more than the same walk (run, football game, or other movement) in warmer weather. Bring your dog along for the perfect walking, or running, companion.
• Bike to work at least one day this week instead of driving. The money saved and carbon emissions prevented are an added benefit to the energy you’ll have throughout the day—not to mention the potential tax rebate.
• Sneak in toning exercises (when no one’s looking, if you’re shy) without changing your daily routine. Try this mini workout from Prevention with exercises for both your upper and lower body that you can do in five- to 10-minute spurts throughout the day.
• Move more! According to James Levine, MD, PhD, professor or medicine at the Mayo Clinic, physical activity that happens outside of traditional exercise has a big impact on body weight. Incorporating what he calls NEAT strategies (or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) into your daily routine can burn an extra 100 to 150 calories per hour. It sounds technical, but NEAT strategies include doing housework or leg lifts while watching TV, getting up from the desk once an hour, and parking a few blocks away from a destination.
• Stand more. Standing burns 50 percent more calories than sitting. Try standing while reading the paper, talking on the phone, or even as you wrap gifts. Pacing while you're on the phone will burn an extra 35 to 40 calories an hour.
• Gesture, fidget and laugh—all of which burn calories. According to Levine, frequent fidgeters and people who gesture with their hands while they talk can burn up 350 calories more a day (adding up to 36 pounds of body weight per year) than those who typically remain still, and a 2005 Vanderbilt University study found that 10 to 15 minutes of true laughter each day can translate to four pounds lost in a year.
Check Rodale.com every Monday for a new healthy habit to start out your week. The Healthy Monday Campaign is a nonprofit collaboration between Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.