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Fitness Tip: Get creative with physical activity

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
If you live in southeastern Ontario, like Travis and I do, you awoke today to piles of snow everywhere and a bone-chilling – 24 degrees Celsius (without the wind chill). On such days it is a struggle to get yourself out the front door, let alone to head to the gym. In addition to poor weather, sometimes the gym may be closed, or as I have recently noted – the gym may be packed on account of all the New Year’s resolutions – all reasons which may deter you from getting a work-out. Indeed, it is well established that the more hurdles (weather, schedule, etc.) you have to overcome, the less likely you are to perform the hopeful behavior (being active). It is important, however, to recognize that the gym is only one way to obtain your physical activity for the day.

Much like Travis discussed yesterday with diet and caloric intake – every little bit helps, and the same is true of physical activity. Not only can you accumulate your minutes of exercise in small bouts throughout the day, but the activities you perform need not be the regular treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical at your local fitness facility. For example, cleaning up your home can burn quite a few calories and has the added bonus of producing a tangible result (i.e. clean house). Vacuuming, in particular, when performed with a certain intensity can really work up a sweat. Also, on a day like today, shoveling the snow on your driveway (depending on the size) could be the most exhausting exercise of the week, and you didn’t have to step foot in a gym. It is important to always seek out opportunities to be active throughout your day, with a wide variety of activities – helping to reduce monotony of daily treadmill running, and reducing the absolute reliance on a gym for maintaining your activity level.

As a personal anecdote, I will briefly go over my random workout on Sunday. I had planned on heading to the gym all day long, but was occupied with other things, and by the time I finally decided to go, it was dark, snowing, and generally unpleasant. So instead I devised my own workout for that day. The first part of my routine consisted of running up and down the stairs of my 7 floor apartment building – much to the annoyance of my neighbours, I’m sure. To make it more interesting, here was my routine: start on the bottom level and run up to the 7th floor, then cross the 7th floor to enter the opposite stairwell, then run back down to ground level. Next, I ran up only to the 6th floor, crossed to the opposite stairwell, and run down – and so on and so forth with descending levels. I did two sets of this routine – the second time I took 2 stairs with each step to up the intensity a bit (total time to completion: ~22 min). Following this, I really spiced things up by playing some boxing on my Nintendo Wii (total time: ~22 min) – a fairly intense workout for anyone, especially if you are competing at the PRO level, like me (Yes, I am a huge nerd). Further proof of the concept in the previous parentheses, I also wore a heart rate monitor throughout the workout (for scientific purposes) – for the total duration of approximately 44 minutes, my average heart rate was about 135 – just about 70% or my age-predicted maximal heart rate – not bad! And, I never left the building…

Feel free to post comments about some random workouts you have had in the past – I am very interested to hear your stories.


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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