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working out from home

Reach your New Year fitness goals with just 11 minutes of exercise a day

Every year we all make the same New Year’s resolutions. This year will definitely be the year you say, as you head back to the gym for the first time in months. However, this year, the gyms are closed, throwing yet another frustrating road block against our New Year fitness goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept us all inside and sedentary for much longer than any of us would like, raising some concerns about the long term health effects of sedentary lifestyles.

We already know sitting at a desk for hours a day isn’t good for us, but it often seems impossible to squeeze in a daily workout, especially when for years we have been told to live by the “1 hour of exercise” rule. Some days, one full hour just isn’t possible. Luckily, a new study has found that we can still reap health benefits by exercising for just 11 minutes a day. Maybe we won’t have to scrap our fitness goals just yet.  

Benefits of just 11 minutes of exercise a day

In the study conducted by the Norwegian School of Sports Medicine, researchers found that just 11 minutes of moderate exercise per day can give you long-term health benefits, offset the effects of prolonged sitting, and add years to your life. 

The study sampled 44,000 men and women for a period between four and 14 and a half years, using activity monitors to measure “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity. Researchers used these calculations and compared them to participant’s time while sedentary. Through their data they found that overall, people who exercised for 35 minutes a day saw the biggest results in terms of health, but the study also showed that those who exercised at least 11 minutes a day also saw benefits. 

Reaching your New Year fitness goals doesn’t seem so daunting when it’s just 11 minutes, right? But 11 minutes is much less than the “1 hour” previous studies have reported, so what’s changed? Well, nothing, except how researchers approached collecting their data. Previous studies relied on “self-reported exposure data,” meaning exercise times were based on people’s recollections of physical activity, rather than hard data. Human memory is flawed, as we all know, and many people are prone to either overestimate their exercise time and intensity, or underestimate the amount of time spent sedentary. 

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Reaching your fitness goals: Exercises to try at home

So what can you do to reach your 11 minute exercise quota and stick to your New Year fitness goals? 

There are tons of options. Here are our top 5: 

office exercises

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Yoga: Practicing yoga is a great way to get your body moving while also relieving stress and fostering your mind-body connection. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, just unroll your mat, set a timer for 11 minutes and go through any number of combinations of your favorite yoga poses. If you’re new to yoga there are also many resources online. Just open up YouTube and search for some beginner yoga videos to get yourself started. 

Full body workout: When selecting your exercises, try to pick a sequence of movements that will engage your body in a workout of moderate effort. Mix in cardio and weights to reap the most benefits. There are plenty of great short workout routines to follow online, many of which require no equipment either. This 10 minute standing abs workout is one of my go-tos. 

Dancing: Who doesn’t love to dance? This one is pretty easy and requires no equipment. Just pop on some of your favorite upbeat tunes and get moving! Dance like no one’s watching. You only need about 3 – 4 songs to reach your 11 minute mark, but you’ll likely want to keep going once you get into it. 

A brisk walk: Many of us underestimate the power of a good walk. While winter months may make it more of a challenge or daunting task, a short brisk walk every day will do wonders for your health. Additionally, just spending time in nature while you move will also help improve your mental health. However, if you really can’t get outside for a walk, then try this indoor walking routine.

Bike riding: Lastly, like walking, bike riding often gets looked over. But again, the benefits of a quick bike ride are so worth it. Just take a spin around the block. You can even go on a social distance bike ride with friends or family. And being out in nature will boost your mood too.

overeating while working from home

Kick the habit! How to avoid overeating when working from home

If you’ve been working from home this past year, then you might have picked up some new eating habits. You may have found yourself in the kitchen snacking throughout the workday more often than usual, and now you’re thinking: how can I avoid overeating when working from home? If this is you, then read on for tips on how to break the habit! 

overeating when working from home

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Understanding why you overeating may be overeating 

You may have heard that unhealthy eating on the job is now considered to be an occupational hazard according to the World Health Organization. For years, employees have been munching on unhealthy snacks and drinking gallons of coffee every working minute. Employers often believe that offering food is a great way to boost workers’ moral and short breaks mean that getting quality food isn’t always an option. Most people end up opting for fast food and sugary snacks. 

If you’re struggling now while working from home, you may be asking yourself: Why? Well, one possibility is old habits are hard to break. If past eating habits have been ingrained in your mind from your traditional work environment, then you may be seeking to replicate those habits now. Familiarity is comforting. Do you find yourself constantly going for another coffee? Or reaching for just one more cookie or bagel? You may be looking for old comforts, but without anyone around there’s no one stopping you when you end up eating the whole box of cookies or drink that whole pot of coffee! 

Another reason why you may find yourself overeating when working from home is simply brain chemistry. These are stressful times we’re living in. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed our lives and made the future landscape unpredictable. 

In an article with BBC, Las Vegas-based clinical psychologist Cortney Warren says, “A lot of people are struggling with their eating right now – and probably in different ways than they’re used to. There is certainly a great deal of research to suggest that when people are in a crisis situation, when they are highly stressed, one of the first things that will change is their eating behaviour.”

Foods make us feel good. The body tends to crave high-calorie and high-sugar foods during times of stress. These foods provide short-term bursts of energy that help get us through the moment. Additionally stress leads to higher cortisol levels, which can increase your appetite causing you to seek out a quick fix. Sugary foods also generate dopamine which is the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and reward. So eating can literally make you feel better on a chemical level during times of high stress.

While the science says it’s making us feel good, it may not always be the healthiest coping mechanism. If you feel you’ve been overeating too much while working from home, then here are a few tips to help break that habit. 

Here are some tips on how to break this habit and avoid overeating while working from home 

Don’t work near the kitchen: Put some distance between you and the source. You’ll be less tempted to check the fridge and if you have to get up frequently and walk all the way over to the kitchen for your snacks, then you’re more likely to stop yourself before you get there. 

Meal prep ahead of time: If you have your meals and snacks for the day already planned and prepared, then you’re less likely to mindlessly snack throughout the day. One big cause of overeating or mindless snacking is convenience. We like things quickly available. If you take the time to pre-cut fruits and veggies for snacks and prep your lunches, then your healthy foods become “fast food” too! Keep a “menu” for the day or work week and hang it on your fridge as a reminder. 

Portion out your meals: Like meal prepping, it’s important to properly portion your serving sizes to avoid overeating. Never eat snacks straight out of the bag or container. Many snacks like chips are designed to be very tasty and addictive. Once you start snacking you may find it hard to know when to stop if you’re eating straight from the bag. Instead, you could divide that large chip bag into smaller zip bags to have ready for when you want that quick snack but don’t want to overeat. 

Stay hydrated: Did you know, your body often confuses thirst with hunger? Sometimes you may think you’re hungry but you’re actually just thirsty. Dehydration can also lead to headaches and fatigue. So make sure you’re staying properly hydrated throughout the day and you may find that you’re no longer craving as many snack breaks as before. 

Don’t buy unhealthy snacks: If junk food isn’t around in the first place, you’ll be less likely to eat it when looking for a quick snack. Instead stock up on healthy snacks such as yogurt, nuts, veggies or fruit. In other words: If you can’t kick your cookie cravings, don’t buy them to begin with.

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If you’ve been struggling with overeating while working from home, don’t feel bad or guilty because you’re definitely not alone. Food is fun. Food makes us happy. And habits can be hard to break, especially during a stressful year like 2020 when we’re all just looking for ways to cope and feel better. But if overeating is a habit you’re looking to kick in the new year, then give these tips a try. You’ve got this!