Non-Exercise Activity

Every Hour on the Hour

Every Hour on the Hour

What fun! Last night while tucking my kids into their beds, I was discussing with them the importance of keeping the body moving throughout the day. I try to impart that doing 30 minutes to one hour of intense physical activity per day does not cancel out the negative effects of prolonged sitting. This article written in 2011 from The New York Times discusses the subject: The Hazards of the Couch.

“Many of us sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, and then go home and head for the couch to surf the Web or watch television, exchanging one seat and screen for another. Even if we try to squeeze in an hour at the gym, is it enough to counteract all that motionless sitting?

A mounting body of evidence suggests not.

Increasingly, research is focusing not on how much exercise people get, but how much of their time is spent in sedentary activity, and the harm that does.”

It is the kids summer holidays after all, and aside from registering our kids for some half day camps or a week of one hour swim lessons, as a family we have agreed that summertime is the kids time to have their own kind of down time. My husband and I are a lot more lenient about how much time they spend on screens each day. I am usually busy in the kitchen, grocery shopping or doing various household chores and when I’m lucky I can sneak in an hour here or there of my own screen time to write posts like this one; but not all at once. I usually have to jump up from my desk to let the dog in or out, or for various other Mom-job reasons. For example, I started writing this post about forty minutes ago and have gotten up from my seat about twenty times already.

View from Top of Grouse

Both my husband and I are hyper sensitive to the immobility induced factor which is screen time of any kind. My husband works from home and all of of his work involves screens and conference calls. He has figured out how to ensure that he does not become chained to his desk. Quite simply: He moves. He stretches at his desk. He does push ups. Between calls he’ll run ten flights of stairs, which at most takes a minute and a half. He’ll do a set of chin ups. He’ll walk the dog. And a couple of times per week from Spring till Fall he’ll hike Grouse Mountain (Grouse Grind). Aside from that he spends 15 minutes in the gym three times per week lifting heavy weights and sprints a mile at the track once or twice a week. He just turned 52 years old and is getting better all the time.

So back to the kids. Last night I was pointing out how easy it is for them to spend hours a day on their handheld device, Wii or desktop computer, without moving. My son paraphrased that he should get up and do something every forty-five minutes. So I leaped at the opportunity and offered that starting in the morning we could experiment with a little bit of activity every hour on the hour! They loved the idea. Concepts are fantastic, but meaningless without action.

By 8am this morning, my son had already spent one hour on his computer! I had already done my bed stretches and morning routine and while putting in the first load of laundry of the day, I told my son that it was time to start his Hour on the Hour Practice. But he countered, “It hasn’t been an hour yet.” It’s quite amazing how quickly time slips away when we are staring at a screen.

True to his word, he got up from his chair and did 50 high knees, then got back to his screen. (He did eat breakfast)

9am: Son did 10 Push Ups followed by a doorway chest stretch. then back to his screen. (I did them after him and he complemented me on my form which made me laugh).

9am: Dot slept in but did her first set of 25 Jumping Jacks to start.

10am: Son and I did 25 Jumping Jacks, then back to his screen./ Dot did 5 Pull Ups.

11am: Son, Dot and I did 10 times flight of stairs.

12 noon: Son will do 5 standing roll downs, I will do 5 Sun Salutations, Dot will do 50 high knees.

We will do nothing until later in the day because we will go to the pool for 1:30pm. I will swim for 30minutes while the kids have their one hour swimming lesson.

I wanted to share this with you today. It is simple, yet it takes self-discipline to make it happen. Precision of movement is paramount but we cannot even begin to work on that if we haven’t got a regular daily practice under our belt. We have to know what we are doing before we can work on the details.

Try to understand this very important point: The amount of time we spend doing an activity is meaningless if what we are doing is done mindlessly without precision.

Exercise is multifaceted.

First things first. Take responsibility for your health. Once you develop a consistent daily body maintenance practice I can help you to see and fine tune the details.

And while you are at it, drink some water every hour on the hour!

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It’s Official…I Have Become My Mother

Up until I became a mother, I was not one for house cleaning and was not even much of a tidy-upper, either.  Having kids of my own was the tipping point at which my inner-mother evolved.

I grew up in a traditional middle-class household.  Dad went out to work and Mom was the ‘home engineer’.  She was the perfect role model in terms of eating well; she ate well balanced meals and enjoyed desert from time to time, (she definitely had a sweet tooth, which she did not deny).  I only learned about dieting from my peers whose mothers were experimenting with fad diets. Mom never needed to diet even though she was never a formal exerciser, she just never stopped moving.  And out of the blue, we’d often find her in a headstand.  She’d have her shower, then wipe down the shower to slow down the mildew from taking hold, which in the long run would make her house maintenance more manageable.  She wouldn’t take a flight of stairs without taking something up or down along the way.  She always seemed to be putting a load of laundry in or folding a basket-full. It drove me crazy!  As a tween I couldn’t stand to see her always working.  I vowed I wouldn’t be like her when I grew up…I would only do things that pleased me. Almost thirty years of running from reality, it’s now official…I have become my mother, AND surprisingly, it pleases me!

Just before spring of this year our present day cleaning lady retired.  At the same time, I was starting up this site and decided that I would now tackle our house cleaning on my own.  My reasoning was that if I had time to start up a website then I had time to do all the house maintenance as well.  I made a deal with myself that I had to get a certain amount of cleaning done each day before spending any time working on my site.

It was not so easy to clean the house the way I wanted it clean with infants, toddlers or pre-schoolers, but now that the kids are in school full time I know I can take this on. I’m not very good at it yet and it can be overwhelming at times, but if I tackle a job a day and keep the cycle going it seems to work well, at least in my opinion.

So where am I going with this?  It’s all about NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.   I came across a great article by Tom Venuto, you can read the original here titled “Why Cardio Doesn’t Work For Some People: A NEAT Explanation.”

NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis accounts for all of your daily physical activity excluding your scheduled workout.  Common sense dictates that you already know the following, but maybe we could all use a gentle reminder…

From Tom’s article, “NEAT includes all the calories you burn from casual walking, shopping, yard work, housework, standing, pacing and even little things like talking, chewing, changing posture, maintaining posture and fidgeting. Walking contributes to the majority of NEAT.

It seems like a bunch of little stuff – and it is – which is why most people completely ignore it. Big mistake.

At the end of the day, week, month and year, all the little stuff adds up to a very significant amount of energy. For most people, NEAT accounts for about 30% of physical activity calories spent daily, but NEAT can run as low 15% in sedentary individuals and as high as 50% in highly active individuals.”

One of the major pitfalls that happens to people who take on extreme workouts is that they wear themselves down so much that they have no juice left for NEAT.  And then they over consume calories, which negates the calories burned in the first place!

At the bottom of Mr. Venuto’s article, he highlights five important points.  As they are all highly significant, pay close attention to point number two:

“2.  Exercise intensity can affect NEAT for days after a workout is over. Too much high intensity work might zap your energy and activity outside the gym, resulting in a lower level of NEAT. You have to keep up your habitual activity level outside the gym after pushing yourself hard in the gym.”

This is why I am such an advocate for incorporating 4 Minute Mornings and Short-Duration-High-Intensity Training into your life, specifically for those who don’t have time for longer body maintenance workouts.  It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in going for a jog/ run or long walk etc., but what I think happens to so many people is that they put so much belief into those long workouts to help them lose weight that they end up dismissing the significance of NEAT.  And the cycle continues. It’s all about balance. And that is what we mean when we talk about balance.  Exercise to become strong to live an active life.

But then there are those who DO a high level of NEAT all day long, those with physically demanding jobs.  All I can say is that it’s in the numbers: calories in vs. calories out.  How you fuel yourself is the most important factor to consider.

  • Eat real food, experiment with what energizes your body, don’t diet.
  • Exercise each day at a moderate level.  Knock yourself out from time to time, just to test your mettle and because it feels great to,
  • but DON’T overtrain or you’ll burn the candle at both ends, wasting your time and not getting results.

Read Tom Venuto’s article, it will help.

Stand up while you read it though, and go fold some laundry when you’re finished! Just imagine, a nation of hard, happy, highly functioning bodies with really clean houses! 🙂

Photo:  My Mom, Lea (1934-2004)- named after my Great Aunt Lea.  Doing a headstand at the cottage, age 48.