Wiped out from another long day, you plop yourself across from the television with a stack of junk food at hand. Nice way to unwind, right? No brain power needed -- and definitely no physical exertion.
So why aren't you feeling refreshed?
Fitness coordinator Pat MacDonald has a few suggestions for healthier ways to attain comfort -- without involving the boob tube.
"Our bodies are made for moving, not for sitting," MacDonald says. "Sitting on the couch doesn't do much but make you a good sitter." Not exactly a skill most of us want to add to our resume.
You might think that the best way to get over a hard day is to let your body rest, but think again. Incorporating activity into your relaxation time will actually clear your brain, instead of numbing it.
"For those people who come home from work, make a meal, eat in front of the TV, then go to bed, it's just a matter of changing habits by substituting new ones," MacDonald says. She suggests focusing on your meal by eating in a more appropriate place -- say, the kitchen. That way you won't be tempted to stay tuned in for the rest of the night.
Small changes that can give you more energy
After dinner, do something. It doesn't have to be much. Do a household chore, MacDonald says, or throw in a load of laundry. It won't tax you mentally, but it will give you a sense of accomplishment that can go a long way toward calming you down after a stressful day.
Or you could go outside. Go for a walk around the block, or get the kids out on their bikes. In the long run, being active in the evening will actually leave you with more energy. "The first few times you go for that walk, you'll be tired," MacDonald warns. "You're doing something your body isn't used to, but once your body has adapted, you'll have more energy overall. It will be a lot easier for you to do the things you need to do, every day."
Vegging on the couch every night won't just affect your physical health, but it will take a toll on your mental well-being too. "Having more energy leads to higher self-esteem, and less incidences of depression," MacDonald says.
How activity can help you unwind
People use activity to de-stress in two ways, MacDonald explains. Some people just zone out while they walk, bike or jog. Clearing your mind of all your worries and stresses and just focusing on the activity is one way of using physical exercise as an escape from the everyday. Others develop problem-solving skills or coping skills while working out, MacDonald says. Using your evening stroll to sort yourself out mentally. Hmmm. When was the last time must-see TV did that for you?
Now don't get us wrong: If you want to watch your favourite show as your downtime, you aren't doing anything wrong. The problem lies in mindlessly flicking through the channels, watching incessantly because you simply don't have the energy for anything else. If every night is spent slumped on the couch, that's when you should take MacDonald's advice. Get off the couch and try to move a little. Who knows? A few after-dinner walks around the neighbourhood and the couch might not look so appealing.
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