Seventy-one percent of people resolve to improve their diet for the new year. The next most popular resolutions are to exercise more and to lose weight. But by February, almost 80% of people have already dropped their resolutions. It can be daunting to take on a lifestyle shift if you don’t have a plan. A realistic plan, at that. If your resolution is to improve diet and increase exercise (maybe with the end-goal being weight loss, but also to increase strength), promising to head to the gym at 4 a.m. every single day for a two-hour sweat-session will likely not work. You will burn out and before you know it, one day skipped turns into two, then three. . .
The good news? There’s still 20% of people that hold onto their resolutions beyond February, and one of those people can be you! You might have to modify the approach, but you can make positive adjustments to your lifestyle, guaranteed. No gimmicks. Just realistic, slow progression and shifts. Read our post on 7 tips to help you keep your resolution.
Walking is one great way to start, and it is no more difficult than initially adding in a five-minute walk around the neighborhood for the first week. If you can’t head outdoors, walk around your home, or even walk in place. Then make it seven minutes the next week. Gradually work your way towards more time, longer distances, and a quicker pace. Any increase in activity is great- but the ultimate goal is to reach 30 minutes, 5 days a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity includes “Anything that gets your heart beating faster” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. An easy way to measure your level of activity is the “talk test”. The American Heart Association (AHA) explains that, when doing moderate exercise, you should be breathing harder than if you were inactive, yet still be able to speak.
But to start the year off on a light note- on that first walk, make it extra fun! Improving your health, after all, is a reason to celebrate.
A study released in the Christmas issue of BMJ measured energy expenditures in people when they walked with a normal gait versus “Tea Bag” style, of Mr. Teabag and Mr. Putey, acted by John Cleese and Michael Palin in the 1971 Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch (see the video below).
Height and body weight were measured, and each participant was shown a video of the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch before performing three walking trials, each lasting five minutes, around an indoor 30-meter course.
In the first trial, researchers had participants walked in their usual style at a freely chosen pace. For the next two trials, participants were asked to recreate, to the best of their ability, the walks of Mr. Teabag and Mr. Putey that they had seen in the video.
Average speed, oxygen uptake, energy expenditure, and intensity were all measured. The researchers found that only the Teabag walk resulted in a significantly greater energy expenditure- about 2.5 times that of usual walking. It pays to be silly!
The researchers explained that walking inefficiently, as in the Teabag style, could increase cardiorespiratory fitness, reduce mortality risk, and would require no extra time commitment because it replaces movement adults already do with higher energy physical activity.
Of course, not everybody is able to recreate the Teabag style due to health conditions, but the study does reveal that energy expenditure can be increased by making your walk more “inefficient”. Try adding in some high steps, make some longer strides, (carefully) walk backwards briefly, and so on.
The researchers concluded, “”Our analysis of the energy consumed during different styles of walking seeks to empower people to move their own bodies in more energetic—and hopefully joyful—ways,” they write. And what better way to start off a new year, than with a promise to ourselves to improve our health with increase physical activity, a more mindful approach to what we consume, and an overall healthier lifestyle.
Happy New Year, from all of us at Courtney Medical Group!