This time of year, when shorter days and cooler weather are driving you inside, it’s tempting to just hole up on the sofa and watch your favourite TV shows while you munch away on calorie-laden snacks. But you can turn your evening around so it’s fun, fit and healthy with just a few easy exercises and some nourishing food choices!
Take an exercise break
Don’t feel like running off to the gym? Get fit and feel great in the comfort of your own living room! Laurie Ashby, professor of Fitness and Lifestyle Management at George Brown College in Toronto recommends these simple exercises you can do during commercial breaks while you’re watching TV – try one or two of these each night:
A quick skip
You loved it when you were a kid and it’s great way to burn calories. Clear a spot on the floor, grab a skipping rope, and skip through the commercials. Do this through each break in a one-hour TV show and you can burn as many as 200 calories!
Tap on it
Here’s a great cardio exercise that also works your legs and buttocks. Stand facing the couch and tap your foot lightly on top, then switch legs and tap the other foot. Continue tapping as quickly as possible throughout the commercial break. Pull your belly button in to engage your abdominal muscles and push your arms forward with each foot tap – and you have a total body workout! You’ll use about 150 calories tapping through one hour of commercials.
Sofa push ups
It’s important to keep your upper body strong and push ups target muscles all the way from your neck to your abdominals. Stand behind the back of the couch about one metre away and place your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Lean into the couch with your buttocks tucked. Bend your elbows and exhale as you lower yourself toward the couch; then push up, breathing in as you lift. Try for three sets of 10 (resting briefly between sets) during each commercial break in a one-hour program.
Step ‘n’ lunge
Walk over to your stairs. Step up one step, then down; repeat and continue at a quick rhythmic pace for the duration of the commercial break. Next break, return to the stairs; stand on the bottom step and lunge back with one leg. Return it to the step and lunge back with the other leg. Continue alternating legs quickly and rhythmically throughout the commercials. You’ll burn about 250 calories in an hour of commercials.
Sit up and squeeze
For this exercise, you’ll need a medium-sized ball. Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Put the ball between your knees and clasp your hands behind your head. Lift your head and shoulders and inhale, keeping your chin off your chest, then lower. Each time you lift, give the ball a squeeze. Do about three sets of 10 in each commercial break throughout a one-hour show.
Whew! Workout’s over and it’s snack time!
You don’t want to undo all your good work, so choose one of these healthy, low-cal snacks, suggested by registered dietitian Natalie Brown of White Rock, B.C.:
• Sweet ‘n’ easy: 3/4 cup low-fat yogourt + 1/2 cup fruit = 170 calories
• Satisfy your munchies with your own trail mix: 1/4 cup mini Shredded Wheat and/or Shreddies + 2 tbsp raisins + 2 tbsp almonds = 170 calories
• For peanut butter-lovers: 4 melba toast + 1 tbsp peanut butter = 140 calories
• Popcorn with a crunch: 3 cups air-popped popcorn + 14 almonds or 25 pistachios = 200 calories
• Two snack ideas with a Greek twist: 1 whole wheat pita, cut into wedges + 2 tbsp hummus = 200 cal; 1 cup raw veggies (carrot/celery sticks, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli) + 1/4 cup tzaziki dip = 150 calories
REMEMBER: Eating protein (e.g., nuts, meat, cheese, eggs) and carbohydrates (e.g., bread, cereal, popcorn) slows down the digestion time, making you feel fuller, longer.