Desk Jockeys Urged to Take Small Steps to Get Exercise

Expert offers tips for those whose jobs require sitting all day.

There’s growing evidence that the more time you spend sitting each day, the greater your risk of heart disease. Your spine, shoulders and hips may also suffer.

“It’s important to get up and move around throughout the day,” occupational therapist Julia Henderson-Kalb said in a Saint Louis University Medical Center news release. “Exercise not only helps with how you feel physically, but it also improves your mind and your memory.”

It may not be possible for you to go to the gym at lunchtime, but making small changes to your daily work routine can help protect your health, she said.

Henderson-Kalb offered the following suggestions:

  • Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair will strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, and improve your posture.
  • If possible, walk around while you talk on the phone.
  • A timer or alarm set to go off hourly can help you remember to take a moment to stand and stretch.
  • Choose the stairs whenever possible, and use the restrooms on another floor.
  • Avoid the parking spots closest to the building.
  • Wear a pedometer and plan to take between 6,000 and 10,000 steps per day.
  • Keep light weights or exercise bands at your desk to help squeeze in an exercise break.
  • Bring your lunch to work. The time you save can be used for a quick walk or workout.


Jogging Beats Weight Lifting for Losing Belly Fat

Compared with resistance training, aerobic exercise burns 67% more calories, research shows.

 Aerobic exercise is better than resistance training if you want to lose the belly fat that poses a serious threat to your health, researchers say.

That’s the finding of their eight-month study that compared the effectiveness of aerobic exercise (such as jogging), resistance training (such as weight lifting), or a combination of the two activities in 196 overweight, sedentary adults aged 18 to 70.

The participants in the aerobic group did the equivalent of 12 miles of jogging per week at 80 percent maximum heart rate, while those in the resistance group did three sets of eight to 12 repetitions three times per week.

The Duke University Medical Center researchers looked at how these types of exercise reduced the fat that’s deep within the abdomen and fills the spaces between internal organs. This type of fat — called visceral and liver fat — is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Aerobic exercise significantly reduced visceral and liver fat and improved risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as insulin resistance, liver enzymes and triglyceride levels. Resistance training didn’t deliver these benefits. Aerobic exercise plus resistance training achieved results similar to aerobic exercise alone, the investigators found.

“Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass,” lead author and exercise physiologist Cris Slentz said in a Duke news release. “But if you are overweight, which two-thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories.”

Aerobic exercise burned 67 percent more calories than resistance training, the researchers found.



Sports Drinks and Exercise

Find out what’s really better after exercise: sports drinks or water.

If you’ve worked up a good sweat at your gym or health club and need to rehydrate, which should you reach for: water or a bottled sports drink?

Sports Drinks: How They Work

Sports drinks, or energy drinks, contain electrolytes (usually sodium, chloride, and potassium), carbohydrates (sugars), and calories. Electrolytes are essential to ensuring that your body’s cells are working properly. When you sweat, you lose only a few electrolytes, unless you’re exercising vigorously. Normal electrolyte loss can be replaced by drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet. When you have a really hard workout and sweat a lot, you may lose too many electrolytes. If you are doing moderate exercise in a very hot environment, you may also lose electrolytes that can’t be replaced by drinking water alone.

Sports drinks can help replenish electrolytes lost during exercise, and because they contain sugar, they can also give you a boost of energy to help you get through a workout. But that doesn’t mean you need to gulp them down before and after each exercise.

Is Water Better Than a Sports Drink After Exercise?

When choosing between a sports drink and water, keep these facts in mind:

  • Water works. Proper hydration is one of the most important ways to protect the body before, during, and after exercise. You should regularly drink plenty of water, especially when you plan to get in a good workout. Water is the best thing for your body, so make sure you get enough.”Most people don’t drink enough water, so when you go to the water fountain in the gym, take eight big gulps. Keep going to the water fountain and bring your water bottle,” says Jody Swimmer, an exercise specialist and owner of the gym Fitness on Frankfort in Louisville, Ky.
  • Sports drinks have calories. One downside to sports drinks is that they do contain calories, a consideration for people exercising for weight loss. “Most people just need to drink water. Sports drinks typically have calories, and if you’re trying to watch your calories, those can sneak up on you,” Swimmer says.Sports drinks typically have about half the amount of sugar and calories of a soda or fruit juice. That can add up quickly if you down a couple of sports drinks, however, especially if you drink them when you’re not exercising.
  • Consider the exercise. Swimmer also notes that most people don’t need sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost during exercise, because generally they don’t work out hard enough to require that. But people who perform certain exercises — those who do a lot of heavy weightlifting or who are running long distances, for example — might benefit from sports drinks, she says.

People exercising under extreme conditions may also benefit from drinking a sports drink after a tough workout. But people who are getting moderate exercise (working out for less than an hour) should avoid the calories and just make sure they drink plenty of water to fuel their bodies for a workout.


How Much Exercise Is Enough?

It depends on whether you want to lose weight, increase endurance, or reach other fitness milestones. Learn about exercise guidelines and the importance of determining your exercise goals.

Before you make a decision on how much exercise you need, you should have a good idea of your exercise goal or goals: Are you exercising for physical fitness, weight control, or as a way of keeping your stress levels low?

Exercise: How Much You Need

“How much exercise is enough for what?,” asks David Bassett, Jr., PhD, a professor in the department of exercise, sport, and leisure studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

For general health benefits, a routine of daily walking may be sufficient, says Susan Joy, MD, director of the Women’s Sports Health Program at the Cleveland Clinic.

If your goal is more specific — say, to lower your blood pressure, improve your cardiovascular fitness, or lose weight — you’ll need either more exercise or a higher intensity of exercise. So figure out your goals first, then determine what type of exercise will help you meet them and how much of that particular exercise you’ll need to do.

Current Exercise Guidelines for Americans

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone needs two types of physical activity each week: aerobics and muscle-strengthening activities. Aerobic activity involves repetitive use of the large muscles to temporarily increase heart rate and respiration. When repeated regularly, aerobic activity improves cardio-respiratory fitness. Running, brisk walking, swimming, and cycling are all forms of aerobic activity.

Muscle-strengthening activities are designed to work one or more muscle groups. All of the major muscle groups — legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms — should be worked on two or more days each week. Lifting weights, working with resistance bands, and doing pushups are all are forms of muscle-strengthening activities.

Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, in addition to muscle-strengthening activities. If activity is more vigorous in intensity, 75 minutes a week may be enough. For even greater health benefits, though, more activity is better: 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a mix of the two.

It’s best to be active throughout the week, rather than concentrating all of your physical activity in one day. That means 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, five days a week. You can break it up into even smaller chunks: three brief periods of physical activity a day, for example. In order for it to be effective in improving health and fitness, you need to be sure to sustain the activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Exercise: What You Need to Lose or Maintain Weight

A combination of dieting and exercise is more effective for weight loss than dieting alone. To lose weight, 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity on most days is recommended. Physical activity is also important to maintain weight loss. Moderate intensity physical activity for 60 to 90 minutes on most days will help maintain weight loss. Of course, a healthful, low-calorie diet is also important for both losing and maintaining weight. The amount of exercise you need for weight loss or weight control depends on what you eat, as well as on the type of exercise you choose.

Know what you want to achieve, and then you can answer the question: How much exercise is enough?


3 Easy Exercises You Can Do on an Exercise Ball

Working out with exercise balls can be great for your body – and especially your abs.

Ever tried to tone your abs by doing what seemed like endless crunches? If so, you might want to add a stability ball to your workout plan. A stability ball, also called an exercise ball, allows you to do a number of exercises that efficiently strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles, and it’s also a good way to stretch out your torso and improve flexibility.

How a Stability Ball Is Used

A stability ball is a soft, lightweight ball that ranges in diameter. Your height determines which size ball you use. The stability ball is designed to stretch and tone the abs, which are part of the body’s core. It can also be useful throughout the rest of your workouts, since you can use it to support your body while lifting dumbbells or performing squats. Using the stability ball for support while lifting weights or toning the lower body will improve your balance and indirectly strengthen the abs.

Stability Ball: Getting Started With Exercises

There are several exercises you can do with a stability ball:

  • Stretching. Lie on your back with the ball underneath you to stretch the abdominal muscles. Lie on the ball on your stomach to stretch back muscles, or lie on your side to stretch side muscles. You can also sit on the ball with your legs and feet in front of you to stretch out leg muscles. Consult with a trainer or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how to use the ball to stretch properly.
  • Lift weights. Use the ball to give yourself support, balance, and a greater range of motion while you lift weights. You can lie against the ball on your back or your chest and do free-weight exercises with the support of the stability ball. You could also sit on the ball while lifting weights to work on your balance while you strength train.
  • Crunches and more. Lie on the stability ball and do crunches for an excellent abdominal workout. Also use the ball as a back support against the wall as you do squats, or prop your feet or legs on the ball while doing modified pushups.

Stability Ball: Choosing the Right Size

Before you invest in a stability ball, you need to figure out which type is best for you. When seated, you want your feet to be flat on the floor and knees should be level or slightly lower than the pelvis. There should be a 90-degree angle (or slightly greater) in the hip and knees with feet flat on the ground. Select the size of the ball based on your height. Your weight is not a big factor, but if you notice that the ball is compressing and you are not maintaining a 90-degree angle in the hips and knees when sitting, you may want to try the next size up.

  • 45 centimeters: Best for people 4’8” to 5’5″ tall.
  • 55 centimeters: Best for people 5’6″ to 6 feet tall.
  • 65 centimeters: Best for people 6 feet to 6’5″ tall.
  • 75 centimeters: Best for people taller than 6’5″.
  • 85 centimeters: Useful for heavier people or those with particularly long legs.

If inflated properly, all stability balls should have the same degree of firmness. As a ball loses air, it becomes less firm which makes stabilizing on the ball much easier than a properly inflated ball because of the greater surface area in contact with the ground or wall. Likewise, over-inflating a ball increases the level of difficulty with stabilizing on it. Alert your gym if the stability balls seem under or over inflated, and if you’re exercising at home, make sure the ball you’re using is adequately inflated.


Measuring Your Personal Fitness Level

Evaluating your fitness level is not a one-size-fits-all process. Differences in lifestyle, muscle tissue, genetic makeup, and overall health all help determine your personal fitness level.

“It is an individual measurement that is not always dependent on how much physical activity you do,” notes Jim Pivarnik, PhD, president of the American College of Sports Medicine and director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at Michigan State University in East Lansing .

So how can you tell if your exercise and healthy diet habits are paying off? There are several ways to measure your fitness level.

The Five Components of Fitness

“Measuring fitness is multi-dimensional,” explains Pivarnik. “Long-distance runners have excellent cardiovascular health, but if all you are is legs and lungs, you won’t have a lot of strength or flexibility. By the same measure, someone who is overweight and aerobically fit is healthier than someone who is in the normal weight range but doesn’t exercise.”

Overall physical fitness is said to consist of five different elements:

  1. Aerobic or cardiovascular endurance
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body composition

Thorough fitness evaluations include exercises and activities that specifically measure your ability to participate in aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise as well as your muscular strength, endurance, and joint flexibility. Special tools are also used to determine your body composition or percentage of total body fat.

Working to optimize each of these five components of fitness is crucial to enhancing your overall fitness and general health.

Fitness: How to Develop an Action Plan

If you have specific health problems, check with your doctor before implementing a routine to boost fitness. Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you have no more excuses. To improve your fitness level, take these important steps:

  • Follow U.S. guidelines for the minimum amount of exercise. That means exercising at a moderate intensity level for at least 2.5 hours spread over most days each week. At least twice a week, supplement aerobic exercise with weight-bearing activities that target all major muscles. Avoid inactivity; some exercise at any level of intensity is better than none while you’re building up your endurance.
  • Walking is the easiest way to get started. Get motivated by enlisting a friend to join you and adding variety to your routine. “Walking is simple and manageable for anyone,” says Jill Grimes, MD, a family physician in Austin, Texas. “Wear a pedometer from day one. Think of it in three parts: a five-minute warm-up of walking slowly, followed by a fast walk, then a five-minute cool-down of walking slowly.”
  • Compete only against yourself. No matter what activity you choose for getting fit, never compare your progress to someone else’s. “Do set goals, and if you are out of shape and hate exercise, start low and go slow,” recommends Dr. Grimes. “Do not compare yourself with your best friend who weighs 50 pounds less and just finished her 10th triathlon.” Pivarnik agrees: “Even if the same group of women walked at the same pace every morning, they would not all show the same fitness measures.”
  • Avoid overexertion. One preventive step Pivarnik suggests is checking your resting heart rate before getting out of bed every morning and making a chart so you can see a consistent, but gradual, decrease over time. If your resting heart rate begins to increase, you may be overdoing it. Another indicator of overexertion is muscle soreness that doesn’t go away after a couple days. “People generally err on the side of not pushing themselves enough,” says Pivarnik. “But the worst offenders are those who think they can jump in where they left off — the bunch of 40-year-old guys who think they are still on the high school football team and start running laps, but end up red in the face.”

As you work on improving your fitness, take it slow and steady to avoid injury or burnout. Above all, remember that consistency is key — if you keep at it, your hard work will pay off.


Crunchy Fish Sticks and Veggies with Dipping Sauce

For a kid-friendly and all around people-pleasing dish, try making your own fish sticks, and bake them for a healthy alternative to frying.

Total Time:
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings (cost per serving of $2.59)
Serves: 4


  • 8 small red new potatoes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 12 oz. green beans
  • ¾ c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ¼ c. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1½ lb. tilapia fillets
  • ½ c. light mayonnaise
  • 2 small dill pickles
  • 2 tsp. whole-grain mustard
  • Lemon wedges


  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes, adding the green beans during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Slice the potatoes.
  2. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, oil, paprika, half the parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cut the tilapia diagonally into 1 1/2-inch-thick strips and coat in the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and cook until golden brown and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. While the fish is cooking, in a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, and remaining parsley. Serve the fish and vegetables with the dipping sauce and lemon wedges, if desired.


Dark Chocolate and Banana Sundae

This no-dairy sundae is a deliciously sin-free dessert.

Level: Easy
Serves: 4


  • 4 large ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate (60% to 70 % cacao)
  • 4 cherries, divided


  1. Freeze bananas, 3 hours. Pulse in food processor until smooth, stirring often.
  2. Melt dark chocolate. Divided bananas among 4 bowls; drizzle with chocolate and top each with 1 cherry.

Coconut Layer Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

A delightful ending to any Easter Sunday feast.

Total Time:
Level: Easy
Serves: 16


  • 3 c. cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 c. (1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. sweetened cream of coconut
  • 2/3 c. low-fat buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 bricks (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes


  1. Prepare Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper; grease parchment.
  2. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  3. In another large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat butter and sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in vanilla.
  4. In separate bowl, whisk cream of coconut and buttermilk. On low speed, add flour mixture alternately with coconut mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, occasionally scraping bowl with spatula. Beat just until blended. Divide evenly among prepared pans.
  5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Run small knife around side of each layer; invert onto racks. Cool completely. Layers can be made up to 1 day ahead; wrap well and store at room temperature.
  6. Prepare Cream Cheese Frosting: In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla and salt until incorporated. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy.
  7. Assemble cake: Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, flat side up. Spread with 3⁄4 cup frosting and top with another cake layer, flat side up. Spread with 3⁄4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer, flat side up. Lightly frost side and top of cake with frosting to barely coat. Refrigerate assembled cake and remaining frosting at least 1 hour Frost top and side of cake with remaining frosting. Cover top and side of cake with coconut flakes. Cake can be refrigerated up to 6 hours. (Cover loosely with plastic wrap.) To serve, let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories 690; Protein 7g; Carbohydrate 77g; Total Fat 40g; Saturated Fat 27g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sodium 390mg

Layered Shrimp, Corn, and Pea Salad

This recipe is packed with protein — and flavor. Use a clear bowl to show off the appetizing layers of plump shrimp, corn, green peas, bell pepper, avocado, and tomatoes, which are topped off with a lively lemon vinaigrette.

Total Time:
Level: Moderate
Serves: 4


  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1½ lb. ripe tomatoes (we used red cut in wedges and yellow cherry tomatoes cut in half)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 c. frozen corn kernels
  • 2 c. frozen green peas
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 6 c. salad greens
  • 1 lb. peeled
  • ½ c. chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Whisk oil, vinegar, juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add tomatoes and avocado; toss to mix and coat. Let stand about 20 minutes to deveIop flavors.
  2. Mix corn, peas and bell pepper in a 4-qt serving bowl; spread in a layer. Top with 1⁄2 the salad greens, all the shrimp, then remaining greens. Spoon tomato mixture over the top; sprinkle with cilantro. Toss to mix or spoon through the layers. This is especially attractive when brought to the table in a clear glass bowl, preferably one with plain sides so all the layers are visible.