WHEN I WAS diagnosed with swelling glands some time ago, probably due to a thyroid condition, I was told not to lift weights or do regular workouts. What should I do then for exercise without using the gym?

It has been said that in order to burn more calories, you must do more than  regular workouts in the gym. Common sense would clearly dictate that being more active in general ends up getting you healthier and fitter than just spending hours in the gym, and there’s the science to back it up.

Everything revolves around your calories. If you’re trying to lose weight and/or burn fat, you simply need to burn more calories than you eat. If you’re trying to gain weight, just reverse that by eating more calories than you burn. Your body is always burning calories, and that’s represented in the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

Your TDEE is broken down into your basal metabolic rate or the calories you burn at rest, thermic effect of food or the calories you burn eating and digesting food, and physical activity, which accounts for 30 percent of your TDEE.

Besides, the small changes and movements can add up to a lot, especially if you’re not an athlete who trains almost every day

Physical activity is then further split in two: Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) or your actual workouts, and Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) or all other physical activity that you do.

What I am saying is that NEAT is more important than EAT, as EAT only takes up a few hours of your day, while NEAT is what you’re doing every day. EAT only contributes around five percent of your TDEE, while NEAT goes up to around 15 percent.

If you’re trying to lose weight, this doesn’t mean to skip your EAT or workouts altogether. You should still definitely do them, especially if you’re trying to maintain your muscle mass. And you should also still eat well or control your portions according to your goals. But what it all comes down to is to make sure you’re deliberately making choices that essentially lead to more physical activity and not neglecting that part of your daily life.

Thus, my “regular workout” has boiled down to waking up early practically every day to sweep the surroundings for dead leaves and picking up fallen palm fronds, weeding, trimming the hedges, re-potting, and transferring plants from one corner to another. The yard is more than 2,000 square meters so that’s quite spacious. Swimming in the pool has also be an option. If the weather has been particularly sunshiny and breezy, watering the plants twice a day is part of the routine. This activity would take at least 2 hours each time. Added to this chore would be (every 6 months or so) re-designing the look inside the house by moving framed paintings around the rooms (using a ladder) and also pushing all the furniture in various ways to get a different look. And with all the walking factored in, that’s pretty neat, don’t you think? By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail March 20-26, 2023 issue)