Fall is the magical time of year when the four major sports in the U.S. overlap. With the MLB playoffs in full swing, the NFL season nearing its halfway point and the NBA and NHL tipping off, sports fans will be giving their couch quite a workout. There is a clear correlation between cheering touchdowns into Thanksgiving dinner and through New Year痴 and massive winter weight gain.
There is no denying that there is a direct link between a sedentary lifestyle and an increased risk of ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and so on. While spending too much time watching sports doesn’t necessarily indicate a sedentary lifestyle, it can quickly spiral out of control — especially if your team is winning.
So how can you get off the couch and keep that heart rate less than one percent gravy while still catching all your favorite sports?
While the replacement refs weren’t any good for the NFL, replacing the unhealthy snacks generally consumed during sports viewing is a good way to stay healthy on the inside. Unhealthy snacks, when combined with the mental effects of sports viewing are a recipe for disaster.
“The chemical byproducts of the excitement and stress
associated with watching sports, are increased levels of adrenaline, and associated hormones and neurotransmitters,” says author and performance expert Chris Weiler. “When these excess amounts are not used, because your next few hours are spent sitting, they create physiological stress and wear on the organs, nerves, vascular, neurological and metabolic systems. Combine this effect while eating foods that are high in saturated, artery clogging fats, and you have a perfect storm for declining health.”
Fruits, vegetables and plenty of water are the obvious replacements for bowls of chips, brownies and alcohol. If you must drink (which is usually contradictory to building up your strength) then pair each drink with a glass of water. This will help your body quickly process and dispose of the alcohol.
Watching sports is one thing, playing sports is another. One provides you with a great way to stay healthy and fit, the other provides you with a great way to turn all your years of playing sports and exercising into organ death and muscle deterioration. While many of us used to play sports and no longer do, you can still build muscle and stay fit while watching your team win. All it takes is a little friendly competition. Cassie Sobelton, wellness advocate and CEO of SynBella has a few simple suggestions to keep you active during the games.
“During commercials do squat challenges with everyone watching. Whoever does the most wins a prize or gets to pick which game they watch next.
Whenever there is a [score], everyone does a set number of jumping Jacks or pushups or squats and so on.
Make bets on the game (not just winner and loser but longest field goal, number of points, score difference, etc.). Whoever loses has to complete a physical challenge, like running around the block a set number of times.
Assign certain numbers or participants to players and whenever that player makes a play, their respective person has to do push-ups.”
If you don’t like to watch the game (whichever game that is) with a group of like-minded, competitive friends who like to stay healthy and build strength, there are lists of some great bodyweight exercises that you can do anywhere and anytime.
“Get out and play the game before and/or after the game — burn those tasty calories during the games,” says author and fitness trainer Clint Fuqua. “If you are gonna wear a team shirt you might as well look like you could be on the team.”
Whether you are actually good at basketball, hockey, football, soccer or baseball — it doesn’t matter. The point isn’t to play the sport well, the point is to be active. While getting outside and hitting soda cans in the front yard with a plastic bat isn’t going to turn you into a ripped centerfielder overnight, it is exponentially better than just sitting and doing nothing. Hitting the local blacktop for a hour of two on two basketball might not turn you into LeBron James’ shoulder muscles, but it will put you on that path (save for the gigantic contract.)
In the end, the key is to never stop being active. Whether it is running or weight training, yoga or martial arts — staying active means staying alive. Building strength and muscle are secondary to keeping your heart healthy. During the apex of sports fandom in the winter months, many of us slow down to a near crawl, negating any gains made throughout the year. While sports can and will always be a part of many of our lives, we should do what we can to make it something we DO, rather than just something we observe others doing.
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