Anyone acquainted with Coach Stacy knows she has four great passions in life: Fitness, family, friends, and….um…shopping. That’s right. The woman never met a mall she didn’t like. Unfortunately, this is not a passion I share with Coach. I find shopping tedious and malls downright wearisome – particularly this time of year. It’s hard to say what’s more annoying – the crowds, the muzak, or the germs. So I tend to avoid it all – get my Christmas shopping done early and then relax and enjoy the ambience.
But if you, like millions of others, will be trolling the malls, box stores and strip centers in the coming weeks, here is some sound advice for avoiding the most common health hazards, along with some tips for adding a little fitness while holiday shopping this season:
- Fight germs head-on. It’s rather gross to think about – and I don’t want to dash your holiday spirit – but if you want to stay healthy this holiday season, you need to think of the mall as a giant petri dish for germs and bacteria. Most surfaces are suspect – checkout counters, escalator handrails, door handles, food court tables, restroom fixtures, and even hangers. And beware of gadgets! That iPad Mini and Nook you’ll be manhandling are teaming with germs. So prepare to do battle by arming yourself with a small bottle of hand sanitizer or envelope of disinfecting wipes – and slather on the anti-bacterials early and often.
- Step away from the germs. Unfortunately one of the germiest aspects of mall shopping is the air. And while you can’t realistically avoid breathing the air, you can dodge the air that you know is problematic. Coach Stacy taught me this maneuver. There you are, walking lock step with the rest of the spending herd when suddenly the shopper in front of you begins coughing or sneezing. The maneuver? Why, step away, rather than into the germs. If you can’t step away, hold your breath until you’re safely past the trajectory. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s effective. And while you’re at it, do your fellow shoppers a favor – cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm so as to avoid sharing your germs with others.
- Hands off – your face, that is. While out and about, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands to reduce the chances of passing cold and flu germs into your body.
- Forego the food court, if at all possible. It’s hard to determine which is worse for you – the junk food or the germs. But if you absolutely can’t avoid the food court, walk directly past Cinnabon and Hot Dog on a Stick. Opt instead for healthier fare:
- Subway’s 6” Turkey Breast Sandwich (220 calories, 3 g saturated fat)
- Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Go Wrap (260 calories, 3.5 g saturated fat)
- McDonalds’ Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (220 calories, 3 g saturated fat)
- Avoid sugary, high-fat drinks, as they’re empty calories with no nutritional value.
- Don’t eat food directly off a food court table.
Now, while you’re busy dodging germs and calorie-laden fast foods, try adding some steps and strength moves to your shopping expedition. The easiest way to “fit” exercise into your outing is by walking. Instead of circling the parking lot endlessly in search of a primo spot, park on the perimeter and walk the extra distance into the mall – but only if doing so is safe. Then, if time allows, add a lap or two around the mall. 2,000 steps is roughly one mile – and the average person burns 90-150 calories per mile walked. While you’re at it, eschew the escalator and elevator and opt for the stairs instead. They’re great for calorie burn because of the vertical element.
And if your shopping expedition is taking the place of your gym circuit, try these strength moves:
- Bag Biceps: Do bicep curls with your shopping bags – 20 reps for lighter bags, 15 for heavier bags.
- Calf Raises: Stand with your feet flat, shoulder width, and abs pulled in. Raise your heels up off the floor so that you’re on your tiptoes for a few seconds, then lower your heels. For a slightly harder move, raise only one heel at a time.
Now, some of you wouldn’t be caught dead doing these moves in public. But when I first started working with Coach Stacy, she once made me lunge to the car at the end of a trip to the mall. Mortified, and thighs burning, I pulled out of our parking space only to spy two other ladies playing a little copy cat and lunging from their space to the mall entrance.
“Well, whadya know,” Coach remarked. “We’re fit-shopping trendsetters.”
Whether you’re setting trends or just trying to avoid illness, follow some of these tips for a fit and healthy holiday season.