For optimum health, the Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise. Yet one study suggests that twice this amount—1 hour—is required if women want to avoid gaining weight with age.
Carving an hour out of each day for exercise is tough, given the spread of our responsibilities. For those who work full-time, parent and maintain a home, multitasking is a way of life. If we can’t find a solid hour to exercise, we’ll need to find exercise opportunities throughout our busy days.
Retail workouts may be the solution since on average, women shop about an hour daily. If we combined shopping and exercise, perhaps we could find some of those precious 60 minutes. A typical trip to the mall, for instance, involves walking nearly three miles. And for serious shoppers―the shopaholics who spend two or three times that much time and forgo meal breaks—the distance can double or triple. In fact, some of these shoppers (my girlfriend is one) easily qualify for the pro shopping circuit.
If you’re shopping at the mall, go equipped with a pedometer, a good companion and these tips:
- Park at the outer perimeter of the parking lot and walk briskly through the mall. Set a goal for the number of steps you want to log and keep walking until you’ve reached your goal. (Window shopping is allowed as long as it doesn’t slow your pace.) Walking improves almost all aspects of fitness: strength, coordination, endurance and balance. It also is easy on joints, increases energy and burns calories. Some malls even have stroller fitness walks for new moms.
- Take the stairs and avoid the elevator. Not only will your legs be strengthened, but they will be more shapely. You’ll also strengthen your cardiovascular system.
- While waiting to pay for your purchase, pull your belly button toward your back. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat. This will strengthen your gluteal (rear) muscles.
If you’re grocery shopping, try these moves:
- Park at the perimeter of the lot so you’ll be forced to walk extra steps.
- If you are purchasing only a few items, carry a basket as you shop. After your groceries are bagged, carry them back to the car. A gallon of milk weighs 12 pounds. Lifting weights strengthens your arms, upper torso and back.
- When reaching for an item on a lower shelf, squat. Repeat two or three times. This move strengthens calves, thighs, gluts and abs.
- Reach for items high on shelves; hold for 10 seconds. Then repeat 5 times. (If you feel self-conscious, pretend you can’t decide whether to buy the product.) Stretching on your toes with arms above your head strengthens your legs, back and arms. It also improves balance.
- Grasp the grocery cart handle tightly on both sides and try to pull your hands apart. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat. This strengthens your shoulders and the back of your arms.
- Grasp the middle of the cart handle with one hand and push right and left for 5 turns. Alternate hands. This strengthens arms, shoulders and abs.
- Spread your legs to the width of your shoulders. Try to squeeze the floor together between your feet. Hold for 10 seconds. Then push your feet apart and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat. These two exercises firm up inner and outer thighs.
- While your groceries are being checked, stand on one leg, straighten your body and bend one knee backward. Hold for 90 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Your lower legs and ankles will be strengthened and you’ll improve your balance.
Whether you head to the mall or the grocery store, don’t begin hungry. Before leaving home, eat a nourishing meal and pack a healthful snack in your purse along with a supply of water. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Throughout your retail workout, engage your senses—especially smell, sight and touch. Stop for a sample of soothing lotion or try out a relaxing massage chair. (You’ll be less inclined to eat from stress or engage in recreational eating.) And pick your indulgences. For example, choose a single piece of dark chocolate (60 calories) rather than an oversized cupcake (600 calories).
Opening your purse, removing your credit card, replacing your credit card and closing your purse will never rise to the level of cardio-intensive exercise, but if you are willing to squat, reach, lift and walk while shopping, over time you can burn hundreds of calories. And think of all the shopping opportunities you have: the mall, grocery store, superstore, warehouse club and department store.
To guarantee success, however, incorporate this one last no-matter-what exercise: carry your fitness goals wherever you go.