Burning Calories The Right Way

HYANNIS – Now that the New Year has arrived, I thought it would be a good idea to try losing the few pounds I gained over the holidays. I perused a couple of magazines looking for some help and came across a few articles that touted the number of calories someone uses doing household chores.

What a good way to lose weight just by doing chores!

It seemed like a great way for me to burn calories, since I live a rather sedentary life most days sitting at computer and writing.

I consulted with Kristine Whaples, MS, RCEP, CDE, exercise physiologist with theLiving Fit for You! Cancer Wellness ProgramatFalmouth Hospital, to see if it’s that simple. Apparently it’s not.

Burning calories has to do with our muscle mass, she explained. Ourbasal metabolic rate (BMR)is the amount of calories we need for our body to continue functioning at rest, and that is determined by the amount of muscle mass we have, according to Whaples.

That’s the good news. The bad news is we lose up to 10 percent of our body mass every decade.

“We have the best and most muscle mass around the age of 20,” said Whaples. “As we age, there is muscle loss and we often gain fat. We also lose our best metabolic rate.”

Whaples explained that if a 20-year-old weighing 150 pounds was assessed again 30 years later at age 50, and weighed the same; his or her body would look completely different, due to the loss of muscle mass.

That explains the “love handles” some of us now notice that we didn’t have when we were younger.

The goal is to maintain the body mass we do have and that can be accomplished by doing strengthening exercises, according to Whaples.

Benefits of Doing Chores

But, don’t give up the chores quite yet. To gain some benefit from doing daily activities, Whaples suggested these strengthening exercises:

  • While standing at the kitchen counter doing the dishes or meal prep, do toe raises or foot raises.
  • Do 12 repetitions of standing from a sitting position in a chair, it’s like doing squats.
  • Vacuuming is great for cardiovascular conditioning and burning calories.
  • At the grocery store, walk a couple of laps around the entire store before starting to shop.
  • Use soup cans to do bicep curls

“If you can do something for 15 minutes, it will help,” said Whaples. “It’s more about doing something on a regular basis to get the most benefit. Walking is the perfect exercise even if you have knee or back problems and can only tolerate five or ten minutes at a time. In that case, do that two to three times a day and that’s just about a half-hour of exercise.”

Gain Muscle Mass

There is a sure-fire way to lose weight and gain strength, according to Whaples.

“If I have someone who hasn’t been exercising and they start a strength training program for 12 weeks, we will see that they will put on some muscle mass, may lose a little weight and some body fat,” said Whaples. “Their BMR prior to training is a lot lower, but after 12 weeks, it will go up even when they are sitting around doing nothing. You’re burning more calories when your body is more conditioned; your muscles are more efficiently using calories. Muscle needs energy and that energy comes from calories.”

The next important step is to eat the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

“You don’t want to do anything unusual such as depriving yourself of any nutrients because that will decrease your BMR,” Whaples said. She recommends talking with a nutritionist if you need recommendations.

There are strength training suggestions online. One site I found is theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)that provides a lot of information about the importance of exercise, types, guidelines and recommendations.

Whaples said the chores routine is adequate if I haven’t exercised one day, because it will make me feel like I have accomplished something.

I think the dog and I will be getting our jackets on to walk more, I hope winter doesn’t last too long.

By ROBERTA CANNON, Cape Cod Health News

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