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Between working a full-time desk job and prepping for the big day, it can be hard to work exercise into your daily or weekly routine. A recent survey by nutrition company Herbalife found that nine out of 10 women in Singapore spend more than six hours at their desk each day. Plus, only one-third of women get more than 30 minutes of physical activity during the work day.
The bad news: Sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart diseases and death. What’s more, eating out has become a norm, making us more prone to consuming food that’s higher in fat, sodium and sugar.
To keep the kilos off, Dr Luigi Gratton, vice president of worldwide nutrition education at Herbalife, offers these simple solutions.
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Walk, walk, walk
You may not be able to fit in a run or gym session before or after work, but you can definitely clock steps and burn calories just by walking. Several studies have shown walking to be the most powerful predictor of a long life.
Besides being a form of cardio exercise, walking is good for your joints and mental health, says Dr Gratton. Walking, among other activities like gardening and dancing, has been found to boost brain function and cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by half, according to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. And you don’t have to walk till your legs turn jelly to experience the benefits.
“During lunch time, put on your walking shoes and walk for 30 minutes,” says Dr Gratton. “Walk at a conversational pace, where you can talk but your heart rate is elevated and you’re breaking into a bit of sweat. That’s when you’re in the fat-burning zone.” The good news: You will clock roughly 5,000 steps in 30 minutes. That’s half your daily recommended number of steps.
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Get enough protein
Protein is essential for building lean muscles, which are your fat-burning engines. Whether you’re working out or not, you’ll need a minimum of 75 grams of protein a day, says Dr Gratton.
How you consume protein matters, too. “Have small, regular amounts of protein – 15 to 20 grams per serving for women – throughout the day,” he says. “Avoid having your day’s worth of protein in one sitting, as your body can’t absorb more than 20 grams at once.”
So instead of reaching for carby foods like chocolate and cookies, try a handful of nuts, yogurt or a protein shake with 15 to 20 grams of the nutrient per serving. Those are low on the glycaemic index, so you’ll feel full for a longer time.
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Load up on whole fruits and veggies
There’s a reason why health promotion bodies all around the world advocate eating plentiful fruits and veggies every day. They aren’t just loaded with essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, but fruits and vegetables play a big part in weight management too.
They are high in fibre and can keep you full with little calories. Fibre helps to regulate blood sugar levels as well, which makes your body less likely to store fat. “Whenever possible, have whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice, as juicing removes fibre and pulp which contains vitamins,” says Dr Gratton.
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In particular, tea that’s derived from the Camellia sinensis plant: green, black, oolong or white. Those varieties of tea contain catechins, a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant that stimulates metabolism, the key to fat burn. Research has consistently shown green tea to be especially beneficial for weight loss.
So go ahead and have a cuppa or two. Just be sure to drink freshly brewed tea instead of bottled tea, as the latter contains unnecessary sugar and preservatives.
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Do resistance training
You know that you need muscles to burn fat. And resistance training is great for building muscles. If you can only afford five minutes, do squats with weights. This exercise targets major muscles in the body: arms, core, butt and legs.
How to: Holding a convenient weight (like 500ml-filled water bottles) in each hand, stand straight with back against a wall, feet hip-width apart. Lower body until knees are bent at 90 degrees, facing forward. As you lower body, bend elbows to do a bicep curl. Avoid extending knees beyond toes as that puts pressure on your knees. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this move for five minutes or until you can no longer do it in good form.
This article was originally published in Shape Singapore.