In the first lockdown here in the UK the nation embraced exercise. We replaced the daily commute by moving with Joe or grabbing our trainers and re-acquainting ourselves with nature. By the third lockdown however, motivation dwindled. Now at the end of our lockdown journey (fingers crossed), many of my clients have told me they’re now moving even less than they did pre-lockdown. Not only have they lost their way with exercise routines but they’re feeling the loss of the incidental movement going to work provided. Combine this with work and home life blending into one meaning even longer hours sat at makeshift desks, bodies are feeling stiff and clothes a little tighter.
As a Pilates instructor it would be easy for me to prescribe more Pilates, but I’m realistic about how much time clients have at the moment to incorporate more structured exercise into their days. So we’ve been talking about NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis – the impact on your calories and energy of everything you do that is beyond structured exercise or what your body has to do to stay alive such as breathing, sleeping, eating etc. NEAT includes standing, fidgeting, walking around, shopping, house work – anything that requires your body to move outside of formal exercise.
There are many articles and papers that explain the weight loss benefits of NEAT such as this and this but you can turn NEAT into an everyday workout that will serve you beyond calorie loss, it can relieve you of achy joints, build stronger muscles and improve your posture and flexibility. You simply need to ensure that while doing any NEAT movement you maximise it by putting in place the ABCs of Pilates and create a daily habit anchored to activities you do anyway – they just happen to boost your balance, posture, strength and flexibility. Here’s a few ideas that go beyond ‘take the stairs not the lift’ and ‘get off the bus a stop early’:
Strength, balance and posture:
- Stand on one-leg to brush your teeth, or do calf lifts floating up and down on your toes – brilliant for balance and great for the legs!
- When you walk or stand think about your posture and alignment (until it becomes a habit then you can forget about it, you’ll just do it naturally). Roll your shoulders back and down, keep your shoulders in line with your hip bones and on your exhale feel a light engagement of your tummy and bum muscles
Create a daily stretch habit:
- Before you walk up the stairs use them to have a stretch – place one foot on the first or second stair keep your chest upright and tuck your tailbone under for a hip flexor stretch
- Before eating use the table or chair– as long as you can hold onto it without it slipping – to hold onto as you hinge 90 degrees at the hips lowering and flattening your spine and extending your arms for a back and shoulder stretch
- When you load the dishwasher, before you stand, touch the floor with your knees only as bent as you need to reach the floor and have a hamstring stretch
- Shake out your wrists and legs for 30 seconds when you do something you do every day – boil the kettle, check your phone, go to the loo
So give yourself permission to stop feeling guilty about lack of exercise and start making the most of your everyday movements – you’re already burning calories and building stronger muscles and bones without even knowing it so now make it intentional.
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