More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and many of these people are willing to try anything to lose weight. You may have read that sitting in frigid temperatures increases calorie burning, eating spicy foods boosts your metabolism and, yes, that fidgeting helps dieters shed pounds. Unfortunately, these reports don’t tell the whole story – especially when it comes to fidgeting. The hard truth is that none of these efforts is likely to result in a measurable difference in the number you see on the scale.
Most of these studies aren’t measuring cause and effect. They’re not saying, ‘if you fidget, you’ll lose weight.’ Instead, they’re suggesting that fidgeting is a biological, inherited trait and that people who fidget tend to weigh less than people who don’t because they are naturally wired to be more physically active.
While any movement is beneficial, you can’t fidget your way to a svelte physique. A better approach: Find ways to squeeze meaningful activity into your day. Whether you’re a busy stay-at-home parent, a high-powered executive or whatever lifestyle you lead, try these six strategies to tone up and trim down.
- Get a standing desk. Standing at a desk, rather than sitting, burns more calories. If you’re on your feet, you’re already avoiding some of the issues that arise from sitting at a desk for hours at a time. Not only are you putting less tension on your hip flexors, but you’re also enhancing circulation and moving blood throughout the body. You can also try pacing while you work or watch TV. Just avoid sitting still.
- Use a balance ball. Sitting on a stability or balance ball requires maintaining strong core muscles – and that, in itself, is a workout. Use a balance ball instead of a desk chair at work or bounce one over to the kitchen table when you’re helping your child with his homework.
- Start cooking more. Preparing meals may seem like a time suck, but working in the kitchen burns far more calories than ordering takeout. A bonus: Homemade meals typically boast less fat and sodium and fewer calories than their restaurant-prepared counterparts.
- Take the stairs. Need to attend a meeting on another floor? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Doing laundry at home? Bring folded clothes up one pile at a time – instead of using a hamper – to torch extra calories.
- Keep moving. Don’t stand still when you’re brewing coffee, brushing your teeth or performing other daily activities. If you’re doing a task that doesn’t require all of your limbs, get moving. Do lunges while you’re talking on the phone or waiting on hold, drop down for a set of push-ups while you’re waiting for water to boil, and park at the farthest spot in the lot so you’re forced to walk.
- Find resistance. You can perform strength training and resistance exercises almost anywhere. Sitting at a table? Use your chair to do triceps dips. Focusing at work? Transform your desk into a surface for pushups.
Today’s world is all about convenience, but unfortunately, labor-saving devices and tools play an important role in keeping Americans on the couch. Rather than take the easy route, do standard chores the old-fashioned way: Skip the floor-cleaning robot and use a traditional broom and mop instead. Wash and dry dishes by hand instead of loading the dishwasher. And walk or bike to work instead of driving your car.
Equally important, don’t underestimate the power of covert workouts. You can perform isometric abdominal contractions while you’re driving, work out at your desk or come up with ways to exert more physical effort while performing daily household activities.