If you are like most Americans, you just decided that this was the year to get in shape. Lose some weight, tone those muscles and to try to get on the path to “the fountain of youth.”
The reality is that it’s getting easier than ever to eat healthier, but a major stumbling block for many of us is how to fit in the other part of the fitness equation: exercise.
The importance of this part of staying healthy was reinforced just over a week ago with the release of the government’s latest Recommended Dietary Guidelines, which doubled — yes, doubled — the suggested amount of exercise to at least 60 minutes a day.
I don’t know about you, but 60 minutes for me is tough. I usually wake up at 4:30 a.m. each day, am at work by 5:15 and about 12 hours later, at the end of my workday, I’m just too exhausted to head to a treadmill or any other kind of gym apparatus.
So what do I do?
I think in terms of “exercise opportunities” — those times during my day that I can make physical activity part of my routine. Instead of taking the elevator in my building, I walk the four flights. I walk to work (about a mile each way) and then again pass up the elevator to walk three flights of steps to my office. Little things? Sure. But these add up quickly and help me burn calories.
How is it for you? Surely you can fit similar exercise opportunities into your day.
And think beyond your home and office. In fact, think about the supermarket! On average we shop for food 2.2 times each week, and if you take my suggestions, you could burn off an additional 66,581 calories each year.
Here’s how: I’ll assume a person weighing 160 pounds. (If you weigh more than 160 you’ll burn more than the estimates here; and less if you weigh under 160; so adjust accordingly.)
DrivingFor the average shopper, driving to the store burns 26 calories for 10 minutes of driving. So if it takes 10 minutes each way, that’s 52 extra calories you just got rid of.
WalkingPark as far as you can from the supermarket and walk briskly toward the store. You’ll burn 20 calories in three minutes. And that’s from just a medium distance away; park farther away and burn even more!
StretchingDon’t just quickly grab an item off the shelf — stre-e-t-t-ch for it. Stretching just two minutes during your shopping trip will burn an extra 10 calories. (It’ll also do wonders for your muscle tone.) Repetition helps, so try reaching five times before picking up an item. Worried about looking strange doing these activities? Well, being in shape and stretching in the aisles looks a lot better than having that extra 30 pounds hanging over the handle of the shopping cart!
PushingPushing a cart can give you an extra push in burning fat — doing it for 60 minutes will burn 191 calories!
CarryingBetter than pushing, how about carrying your groceries? Just 15 pounds of groceries (which is less than a normal amount, since a gallon of milk weighs 12 pounds by itself) carried for one hour can burn a whopping 267 calories! Even loading or unloading the car burns 19 calories.
LiftingAnd lifting those items off the shelf can help you, too. Just three minutes of it burns 23 calories, so try increasing that by doing repetitive lifting of heavier items such as a gallon of milk, water or juice.
SquattingAnd don’t forget to squat when you reach for those items on the lower shelves. You can burn 13 calories just by going up and down a few times.
PayingAnd what about those checkout lines? Make sure you aren’t just wasting your time in shopping purgatory. You can make a 10-minute wait (which burns just 15 calories) much more productive by clenching your gluteal (rear) muscles repeatedly. Result? Fifty calories gone!
Some of these may not sound like much, but when you add it up it you will be surprised how many calories you can burn. Add that all up over time and you will really see the difference. Here’s the math:
If you increase your time squatting, reaching, lifting, and parking further away — as well as carry your groceries in shopping baskets instead of pushing a cart — during one shopping visit you can burn 582 calories. And with people doing grocery shopping on average 2.2 times a week, that calculates to 1,280 calories burned per week, or 66,581 calories burned in a year.
And that’s just for supermarket shopping — imagine what you could do every time you head to a warehouse club, superstore, department store or mall. As always, think stairs instead of elevator or escalator. Think lift instead of push. And think in-shape instead of flabby.
So next time you head to the store, try to remember these little “exercise opportunities.” Not only will you make the experience more beneficial to your health but it will also make the whole shopping experience more fun and pass the time faster.
And if you really feel motivated and want to burn even more, do these grocery exercises at home as well. Lift that gallon bottle 10 times before putting it in the fridge. Flex those glutes while putting away the groceries by putting away only one item at a time. And do the deep knee bend or flex on your toes for each item.
(Just a reminder, research has shown that those people who keep a “food diary” actually consume 15 percent less food each day. Start your own journal, or for a free online food and exercise journal, just go to .)
Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent