Q: What kind of activities qualify for my 30 minutes on off days?
The main goal of off-day activity is to keep your butt off a chair for at least 30 minutes. And it should be fun.
Dog walks are good. Do a little exploring!
On the other hand, there are two things you must avoid with off day activities. First, you don't want to workout too hard and get sore so you end up ruining the next "real workout". And second, you don't want to exercise too hard that you impair recovery from the previous "real workout".
Be conservative. When in doubt, do less than you think you should.
For beginners and intermediate folks, you could do 30 minutes of light cardio, walking, domestic work, or a combination of bodyweight exercises (easy ones) and easy cardio. Even dancing is fine. Playing sports would probably be too much.
For your cardio, it would be best to do what is called "cross-training". That means using a different form of cardio each workout or doing 10 minutes of 3 different cardio methods within the same workout. This will help avoid overuse injuries, which is one of the main downfalls of cardio (along with inefficiency).
If you choose to do walking or dancing, please make sure you have the appropriate footwear and if you feel any onset of overuse injury switch to another activity.
The heavier you are, the more you should focus on non-weight bearing activities at this time until you lose a significant amount of weight. So swimming, the elliptical trainer, and the stationary bike might be most appropriate at this time.
Yoga, Pilates, and other methods of "mobility training" are also acceptable off-day forms of exercise. Plus, they are highly beneficial for stress reduction, which should be one of the main benefits you get from your off-day form of exercise.
Please note: Just like any other activity, you can over-do and over-use your body in Yoga, Pilates, and Mobility exercises. Please be very careful and only work with qualified instructors who are experienced in working with beginners.
For more advanced fitness levels, all of the above apply as well as more advanced off-day activity levels. The key is to do something you enjoy. Your "off-day" exercise should not be thought of as a workout, but rather as a leisure pursuit. You should really look forward to doing what you have planned for this day.
Alternatively, you could simply do "errand running" or "household chores" as your activity for the day, if you maintain a brisk pace and do it continuously for at least 30 minutes.
Finally, for those that are super-fit and looking for that little extra to remove the last bit of body fat, you can use additional bodyweight circuit training. But again, make sure it does not impair tomorrow's performance or recovery from yesterday's workout.
Have fun on your off-day,
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
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