Want to shape up and stay healthy? Let’s forget calories, and instead put the fun back into our workouts.
How is this for depressing? On a recent trip to the U.S., I had dinner at one of those restaurants that prints the calorie count of each item on the menu. Imagine my surprise when I learned that my plate of grilled chicken taco salad registered a heart-stopping 1,200 calories.
To make matters worse, I grabbed my smartphone, dialed up my exercise app and learned that I would need to run almost two hours to exercise away my dinner. Two hours!
Let’s face it. We’re obsessed with calories. We worry about counting them, burning them and, especially, how many are left in between.
And it’s understandable. Despite what the ads for fad diets and miracle pills tell us, we know that the only sure way to lose weight and keep it off is by consistently shedding more calories than we take in.
So we have devices that monitor our workouts and apps to chart our progress. And what we learn from them is that it takes a lot of sustained activity to burn calories. Just have a look:
Activity Calories burned/hour
Swimming: (fast): 900
Running: (fast): 800
Soccer (competitive): 800
Golf (walking): 250
That’s why I’m starting to think our obsession with calories is just that: an obsession – and obsessions aren’t particularly healthy. As I discovered by looking at the calorie counts on the menu and then checking the app, the whole concept of counting calories feels like fighting an uphill battle. We drag ourselves to go to the gym, day after day, in a desperate attempt to achieve our goals, only to be disappointed when we fall short.
Putting the Fun into Fitness
Rather than obsessively working out with an eye toward the calories burned, what if we instead made exercise fun – and let the calorie-burn take care of itself?
Here are just a few ways:
- Compete with yourself. Add excitement to your workouts by measuring your progress and continually working to top what you did before.
- Dance. Shaking your body is a fun way to get in shape. The quick dance moves in Latin dance, for instance, can burn up to 500 calories an hour.
- Go outside. Alternate your club workouts with outdoor activities. Go for a walk, hike, bike ride or swim.
- Move to the music. Fill your smartphone or MP3 player with up-tempo, fast-paced music. That will keep you moving and take your mind of your workout.
- Have a cause. Give your workout purpose by setting a goal to train for the next charitable walk, run or similar event in your area. A good example is the charity runs like YOU RUN – trust me it is the best motivation in the world.
- Take the stairs. Forget the elevator and instead make a habit of taking the stairs to and from your office or residence.
When we find fun in fitness, we also discover motivation. Breaking out of the routine and enjoying our exercise efforts give us energy and strength.
And that’s when we’ll really burn the calories.