In Good Shape: How to Fidget Your Way to a Slimmer, Trimmer Figure

We love to believe in magic. We relish myths of water turned into wine and pumpkins transmuted into splendid carriages at the wave of a sorcerer’s wand. Many overweight people indulge in these fantasies as they grow older and develop a middle aged spread. This, they like to believe, is because muscles automatically turn to fat as human beings age. As we get older, most people put on a pound or more of weight a year, due to the fact that they lead less active lives and yet continue to eat much as they did in their sporting youth. At the end of a keenly fought game of rugby, a young man may drink three or more pints of beer to replace the calories he lost during the course of the game. Twenty years later he may drink the same amount of beer to recover from a stressful day in the office, but the consumption of those extra 600 calories is then an obscene irrelevance. If it’s continued for just three days in every working week he’ll put on a pound of surplus flab every six weeks. This is not a natural physical accompaniment of the ageing process, but a definite pathological change. In a state of health our body weight should reach a peak in our early twenties and then remain practically constant until we retire, when it will tend to fall if we’re forced to become less active and suffer a consequent loss of bone and muscle tissue.

The easiest way of winning the battle of the bulge is to keep our muscles in good trim. Weight for weight our figures will then be more svelte, since muscle tissues are far more compact than stores of surplus fat. This process will also boost our basic metabolic rate, for a kilogram of muscle burns up approximately three calories a day, compared with the one calorie required to maintain a similar weight of fat. So if you can succeed in increasing your muscle mass by just three pounds during the next few weeks you’ll burn up about an extra 200 calories a day. This may not sound much, but

it’s equivalent to a loss of roughly a pound of fat every 18 days. What’s more, those extra muscle fibres will continue to burn up calories even while you’re watching TV or lying asleep in bed. And don’t be deterred by the fitness buffs who are forever proclaiming: ‘No pain, no gain.’ There’s no need for heroics; no call for pumping iron or running marathons. Even walking across the office to chat to a colleague, rather than using the phone, burns up calories. Further help comes from making a practice of climbing the stairs rather than using lifts and escalators, and walking, rather than using the car for distances of less than a couple of miles. In the evening, during commercial breaks on the TV, never sit glued to the screen, but get up and carry out a few household chores. Don’t slump in a fireside chair. Buy yourself a rocking chair, so you get some useful exercise while you’re reading the latest Sci-fi thriller. At the risk of annoying the rest of the family, tap you feet and clap your hands while you’re listening to music. Keep on the qui vive, for physiological research has shown that some people keep slim simply by fidgeting, or indulging in what scientists call ‘incidental physical activity’ (IPA.) Some of the volunteers taking part in these experiments used up to eight times more energy than their peers, burning up as much energy as they would working out for an hour on an exercise bike. Even people sitting

idly in a chair can burn up 11 more calories by chewing gum, and those who walk about while they’re chatting on the phone can burn up an extra hundred calories a day. This has been shown, not only to help to keep them slim, but also to enhance their cardio-respiratory fitness. All these benefits, and they’re just a muscle twitch away.
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