One of the big challenges for my clients recently has been dealing with a sudden drop in activity.
When your output drops significantly the only way to compensate is by reducing your calorie intake, which is not that easy when you're at home all day surrounded by food.
If you're only allowed to go out for essential shopping, walking isn't an option anymore.
This presents a serious challenge if you're trying to lose fat or even maintain, but I have a solution for you.
Before I tell you, I want to tackle the persistent "10,000 steps" myth.
Much like the claim that "you only use 10% of your brain," which has often been repeated in popular culture and by delusional self-development gurus, the 10,000 steps guideline has no basis in science.
The origin of the guideline is actually a marketing strategy by a Japanese pedometer company.
Although there are benefits to walking, it's not about the step count. Here's what walking does for you:
- It gets you moving;
- It changes your environment, particularly beneficial if you walk in nature;
- Improves cardiovascular health;
- Stimulates blood flow to your brain;
- You can do it frequently.
You can replicate all of those things, even while you're at home.
Here's how you do it:
The negative effects of being sedentary or sitting down all day to work are a function of time. In the same way that noisy neighbours disrupting your sleep once is different to them keeping you up every night, stress has a different character when it's prolonged.
The solution is to build frequent movement into your day, not doing a workout for 30mins and then sitting down for hours without a break.
Taking microbreaks means getting up every 30-60mins to move your body, building more movement frequency and variety into your day.
Part of taking a break should involve changing your environment, even if that means stepping outside for a moment into a garden or balcony area, or popping open a window if you don't have either of those things.
Get some fresh air, get some sunlight, and look at something different.
When you microbreak you have to do something biologically meaningful. Sitting in a different position doesn't work, because that only changes the type of stress you're experiencing.
Switching to a standing desk is even worse, because it puts more stress on the joints and circulatory system.
Your microbreak have to involve repeated contractions of your muscles in some form, stretching only changes the feedback you're getting from your nervous system, it doesn't provide a stimulus.
The best way to microbreak is to do mobilisations where you take your muscles through a full cycle of stretching and shortening.
3. Trigger workouts
If you have a pullup bar at home, a great way to get really good at pullups quickly is to do 1 or 2 reps multiple times a day. The way I used to do this was to perform a pullup every time I walked through the doorway with the pullup bar.
The idea is to attach the movement to an existing behaviour or habit and make it really simple to execute. The ideal trigger should be something you do multiple times a day, like going to the kitchen for a drink.
Your aim is to do a small number of perfectly executed repetitions, not to accumulate any kind of fatigue. Doing this increases your motor skill and allows you to get really good at the movement very quickly.
Putting all of this together will increase your workout volume, build strength and muscle over time, and increase your output to help compensate for any drop in activity.