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Yes, You Can Exercise at Home

Yes, You Can Exercise at Home


You may think that exercise counts only if it is that stuff you do while sweating heavily in your fancy togs at the gym with massive amounts of shiny equipment around. But your household activities can count as exercise, especially if you are just starting out with a commitment to a program or are recently recovering from an infection, wasting, or other exhausting health problem. Becoming active, even in small amounts, can help you to build your stamina or 'functional capacity and reserve' that you may lose if you are typically inactive or become ill. Let us start with what it takes to just sit around knitting: approximately 1.5 mets. (A met is a measure of effort, and one met is the amount of oxygen per minute a 154-pound man uses to just sit still'about 3.5 milliliters of oxygen.) So even the act of knitting increases your energy consumption! If you make a bed, you are using two mets; sweeping the kitchen floor, light dusting, or even putting away groceries requires about 2.5 mets. General around-the-house carpentry uses three mets. And if you are adventuresome and sweep the garage floor, you can use up to four mets. (Garage floors must be different somehow.) Scrubbing floors on your hands and knees uses up to 5.5 mets and makes your roommates and visitors happy. If you are planning to be outside, which is not a bad idea if it's possible for you, mowing the lawn with a hand mower yields six mets'or six times the amount of oxygen per minute that our 'model man' would use staring at the wall. Even using a power mower uses 4.5 mets. For outdoor fun, playing Frisbee uses an average of 3.5 mets of effort and probably more if your playmates have bad aim. Both Ping-Pong and tai chi provide about four mets of effort. Taking the dog for a walk uses up about 3.5 mets, and walking with intent'like walking to work or class (or to your favorite ice cream joint)'will move it up to four mets. Depending on your weight goals (maintenance, loss, or gain), you will need to balance the energy used with your energy (calorie) intake. Let us figure out how many calories you will use up and may need to consume to make sure you are covered as you build your stamina. The equation is: Number of mets for the activity multiplied by your weight in kilograms (pounds divided by 2.2) multiplied by duration of the activity in hours (or fraction thereof for most of us) equals number of calories used. So if you weigh 154 pounds (70 kilograms) and put away groceries for 30 minutes (0.5 hours), the equation would be: 2.5 mets 3 70 kilograms 3 0.5 hours 5 87.5 calories used up and a little more stamina gained. Working up to endurance, if you choose to dance for about an hour, using 4.5 mets (not the fast punk-music type but not as slow as ballroom), your total would be 4.5 3 70 3 1 or 315 calories. You can build up a lot of stamina for the cost of 315 calories or an energy bar and a cup of juice. Once you have built up some endurance, you can plan for routine exercise in addition to your household chores and recreational activities. Check with your dietitian to tailor your diet to your activity levels, energy needs, and weight goals. Fields-Gardner is the director of services for the Cutting Edge, an HIV nutrition company in the Chicago area. She is a member of the International AIDS Society and the American Dietetic Association's Dietetic Practice Group on HIV and AIDS. She has written a book on HIV medications and a guide to nutritional management of HIV for clinicians.

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Cade Fields-Gardner