Exercises to help shed weight gained from the holiday season

PHOTO: Increase your exercise output to see you through the season of feasting

With the festive season upon us, you may think that extra exercise and physical activity during this period will take care of those extra calories.

Sadly, no.

A person weighing 70kg would expend only about 280 calories after a 30-minute jog, and 130 calories after 30 minutes of resistance exercise. And the amount of calories burned would be fewer for people who weigh less, said Mr Png Eng Keat, a physiotherapist at Singapore General Hospital.

That is a mere dent, considering a typical Christmas meal of mashed potatoes, ham, turkey, log cake, Christmas pudding and red wine totals about 1,200 calories.

In fact, an average person can gobble down up to 8,000 calories worth of food on Christmas Day alone, said Mr Png. This is based on estimates in Western countries.

While having Christmas feasts are not quite part of our Asian culture, more people are embracing Western influences and our diets are becoming more similar, he added.

So, exercising to lose the calories consumed, or in anticipation of calories that you are planning to consume, is a skewed game of catch-up, he said.

And you may want to be careful about stepping up your routine too much, for a sudden increase in the amount or intensity of exercise can hurt the musculoskeletal system, leading to aches, pain or injuries, warned Mr Png.

INCREASE GRADUALLY

A better option would be a gradual increase in the amount and intensity of exercise, to allow the body to safely adapt to the increased level of stress caused by exercise.

A safe level of increment for a moderately intense cardiorespiratory exercise would be 10 to 15 minutes over two weeks, he said.

Long, sustained bouts of brisk walking and jogging are the best exercises to improve one's cardiorespiratory fitness and burn calories, he added.

Cycling, dancing and practising martial arts are also helpful.

Generally, any form of activity that involves the sustained use of major muscle groups will cause more calories to be used up, said Mr Png.

One should maintain these activities at a moderate intensity and accumulate at least 150 minutes of it over a week.

Intensity can be estimated by the heart rate achieved during the exercise. When one is exercising at a moderate intensity, for instance, it should be at about 70 to 80 per cent of his maximum heart rate. You can get your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.

WORK OUT AT WORK

For office workers, it would be good to break up long periods of physical inactivity at work with simple exercises at the desk, said Mr Png.

Doing stationary marching, squats, lunges, reverse crunches and push-ups can help to increase your caloric expenditure.

Another way to increase physical activity while at work is to replace your office chair with a Swiss ball.

Doing so forces the body to engage its postural muscles for stability. However, this may not be suitable for those with balance issues, explained Mr Png.

Or you may want to get a standing workstation or desk, as standing up burns more energy than sitting down.

Taking the stairs instead of the escalator or lift, and walking to your lunch destination instead of driving there, are other simple means of adding physical activity into a busy schedule, said Mr Png.

Although these activities may not feel like you are exerting yourself much, they all add up to one's energy expenditure, he added.

A good thing, given the abundance of delicious treats readily available at this time of the year.

wanching@sph.com.sg

SCALE UP YOUR WORKOUT SAFELY

BRISK WALKING

Week 1: 3 sessions x 15 minutes

Week 2: 4 sessions x 15 minutes

Week 3: 5 sessions x 15 minutes

Weeks 4 & 5: 5 sessions x 20 minutes

Weeks 6 & 7: 5 sessions x 30 minutes

You may also want to include full-body resistance exercises two or three times a week, on top of your brisk-walking routine. Here are some that you can try.

LUNGES

Take one big step forward with your right leg and bend both knees, lowering yourself while keeping your body straight.

Make sure the knee of the right leg stays behind the toes of the right foot. Stand up and place both feet together.

Do this 15 times. Then, switch to the left leg and do another set of 15.

Repeat the whole process.

PUSH-UPS FROM A TABLE

Stand about 1m away from your desk or table with your feet together.

Place your palms, shoulder-width apart, on the edge of the desk.

Slowly lower your chest to the edge of the desk, then push yourself back up. Do one to three sets of 10 repetitions each.

SHOULDER PRESSES WITH DUMBBELLS

Stand straight and do not round your shoulders or hunch.

Hold 1kg to 2kg weights in your hands, with your arm forming a 90-degree angle at the elbow.

Push the weights up and above your head. Then, lower the weights in a controlled manner to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 10 times. Do three sets.


This article was first published on Dec 25, 2014.
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