Multitasking your workout

Experts say you can tuck exercise into your day in unexpected ways

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 7, 2015

 Swapping out an office chair for a stability ball is an easy way to pack more fitness into your regular routine. The ball works the core to improve balance and strength.

Swapping out an office chair for a stability ball is an easy way to pack more fitness into your regular routine. The ball works the core to improve balance and strength.

Photo by Deb Jacques


METRO DETROIT — We’ve all heard those too-good-to-be-true fitness tidbits, like how chewing gum burns 11 calories, and eating celery burns more calories than you take in. And those are the fun facts that make dieting seem oh-so-easy, right?

Well, as it turns out, they are too good to be true.

While many everyday activities do help contribute to a healthy, active lifestyle, it takes a little something extra to count as part of a workout routine, according to many trainers.

But before you reluctantly pull those barbells back out from the back of the closet, there’s good news: There are ways to sneak a few minutes of exercise into your mundane chores.

And there’s no better time to start beefing up your to-do list with some strength training and cardio than the fall, when there’s plenty of outdoor landscaping to be done in preparation for the colder months ahead.

That’s according to Michelle Gomez, owner of 6 Degree Burn Fitness in Troy. The personal trainer and group fitness instructor said she has years of experience in the fitness industry, including martial arts, spinning, stability and suspension training, and even dance. All that training has given her the benefit of being able to tailor workouts for clients with limited time or mobility.

“People tell me they don’t have time to exercise — of course you do,” she said. “My grandmother was very active every day. Whether she was outside planting flowers or running up and down the stairs doing laundry, she was moving. And she stayed thin throughout her years because she never gained weight.”

Keeping yourself moving is one of the keys to staying active and having certain obligations in your daily schedule count toward your fitness routine. Raking leaves and shoveling snow can certainly help you reach an exercise quota for the day. So can a few minutes of targeted movement from your office chair during a work day.

“If you don’t have the hour to go to the gym, you can accumulate it. Ten minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night — you don’t need that much time to work out,” she said.

The concept of fitting in fitness where you can becomes even easier, Gomez said, when you integrate a little technology. Devices like FitBits, or digital activity trackers, can give you a good idea of how many calories you’ve burned during certain portions of your day.

“It gives you a gauge and gets you excited about exercise,” she said. “You can start to do things like go for a walk on your lunch hour — if you take just 15 minutes to walk around the building several times. You don’t have to have vigorous exercise to burn calories. It can be moderate.”

That being said, incorporating exercise into your schedule should at least get your blood pumping a little more than normal, according to Alan Lee, operations manager for personal training and group fitness at M Fitness Club in Sterling Heights.

“General movement that’s part of your normal load shouldn’t be considered exercise,” he explained. “People come to me and say they lift boxes all day every day — why aren’t they seeing (results)? Because after a while, it doesn’t become exercise; it’s basic movement your body is used to.”

The idea is to make sure your heart rate is increasing when you want to burn calories. For instance, he said, if you want to make an effort to park your car a little farther away from a store’s entrance for some added exercise, that’s a great idea. But be sure to walk more quickly and move your arms as you go.

“If you’re pushing your blood flow and your breathing rate is going up, that is a means of burning calories,” he said.

That will count for even more on chilly fall and winter days when you’re clearing out leaves or clearing away snow. Your body will work harder to stay warm, and you’ll get more fitness bang for your buck.

Of course, if you pack cardio into every item on your errand list, you might push yourself a little too hard — after all, you really should fit in a real workout at some point. Listen to your body and take rests when you need. But not for too long.

“Just by staying on your feet and continuing to move around, you’re continuing to burn calories,” Lee said. “Resting can mean bringing your heart rate down without laying on the couch. Because, let’s face it, when you get on that couch, you’re probably staying there.”

M Fitness Club is located at 5742 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights.

6 Degree Burn Fitness is located at 1825 Brinston Drive in Troy.