Tip # 1: Boost your metabolism program
Welcome to the first tip in the Boost your Metabolism program. It's fun, it's free, and you can work at your own pace!
If you are currently having challenges with weight loss or if you want to avoid weight gain (especially as you age), join this program of gradually adding healthy habits to your lifestyle. I offer eight practical tips that may help speed your metabolic rate (that's how efficiently your body “operates,” including how well you utilize the food you eat).
These tips are actually lifestyle-improving skills. I encourage you to follow each tip for longer than a week, before moving on to the next one. Making changes gradually is much easier and doable – and likely more permanent!
Each of the eight tips presented will be kept on this Blog. You can always access them whenever you are ready to begin the next. By the way, it's a good idea to do them in their numerical order. I may occasionally refer back to tips previously covered.
Here’s the first tip . . .
TIP # 1: Do the ‘squat’ while brushing your teeth.
Everyone brushes their teeth (well, let’s hope everyone brushes their teeth).
And while you brush, you’ll be doing the squat exercise, one of the best overall movements for the entire lower body. And how appropriate – ‘squatting’ in the bathroom!
You can choose to do this every morning or every-other-morning, depending on your enthusiasm, your fitness level, and/or your physical limitations. Do it every-other-day if you are new to exercise – and especially if you are sore after the first time! And, by the way, you can do this “toothbrush squat” even if you already exercise regularly.
At first, you will do this only once in the day; either during the morning brushing or the evening’s brushing. Over time, you can gradually increase to twice a day, if you like, but I'll explain shortly how over enthusiasm may increase risk of injury! While you squat you’ll be timing yourself: Buy a cheap kitchen timer at a Dollar Store or use the ‘timer’ in your electric toothbrush (it runs for 2 minutes, usually).
However, you don’t have to do the squat for the whole two minutes! Read on
for the particulars . . .
But first, why are you doing this?
Tossing in brief bouts of extra activity throughout your day is another tool to boost your metabolism. It’s like the old tip of taking the stairs instead of the elevator (which is still a good idea, by the way). If you do the toothbrush squat regularly, you will not only get a metabolism boost to more efficiently burn up the food you eat, you’ll also;
Strengthen your lower body muscles;
Challenge your balance and coordination to reduce risk of falling as you age;
and challenge your brain: It can be tricky brushing and squatting at the same time, especially when brushing with your non-dominant hand!
You also contribute to the health of your teeth and gums – because unless you were using an electric toothbrush with its built-in timer, you may not have been brushing for very long.
How long and how often?
I’m suggesting you do this only once a day (or every-other-day) and for a limited length of time each time you do it (but not longer than 2 minutes; more than that isn't necessary). More details are below for the fit, unfit, or injured. However, I do want to stress that if you aren't accustomed to doing the squat, avoid going crazy with it because non-stop, high-repetition movements can create injury. Think of tennis elbow, or carpal tunnel syndrome in those who “flick” their wrists continually (like cashiers). When overdone (especially if using poor technique), the squat can eventually contribute to injuries, particularly to the knees. Start slow, doing the toothbrush squat once a day or every-other-day. And do only the amount of squats, within the two minutes, that your personal abilities allow (it can be just five total squats, or squatting for 30 seconds, one minute, or whatever). Over time, you can gradually increase the number of squats you do or the overall time you spend doing them. Always listen to your body. Sore knees or a sore back may indicate you either overdid it and/or you used poor technique.
Start with placing your feet about shoulder-width (or less) apart. Lower yourself in the squat position, going only as low as you choose or are able to (more about that later). Be sure to breathe. Avoid holding your breath! Typically, you would inhale as you squat and exhale as you rise. Hold on to the bathroom countertop with one hand if you need help at first with balance. Below is an illustration explaining a few basics for correct technique. But if you aren’t familiar with doing the squat, please also ask a knowledgeable source to check your form.
And below is an illustration of two simple stretches that I recommend you do after you do your toothbrush squats. Stretching may help avoid any muscle cramping later. It also helps improve/maintain the flexibility of your muscles and range of motion of your joints.
See link above for a printable copy of this illustration.
Do the seated hamstring stretch while sitting on the toilet seat, or you can stretch both legs at the same time, while seated on the floor. If you can arrange having your bath/shower after you brush, you can do the Quadriceps Stretch standing in the shower or the Seated Stretch sitting in the tub, stretching both legs together.
If you aren’t very fit . . . or perhaps overweight, and/or not used to doing lots of squats (and to avoid being too sore the next day); please don't do non-stop squats for the entire 2 minutes! Take breaks after each squat or group of squats, go slow, and don’t squat down too deep (meaning, don’t let your butt touch the floor). Even just a slight flexing (bending) of the knees is working muscles and increasing your metabolism. There’s no need to squat as low as shown in the illustration above. TIP: If you can't squat down too low, increase the effort by really squeezing those butt muscles as you rise into the standing position.
If you have any lower body injuries . . . (low back, hip, groin, knees, ankles, feet), check with your fitness trainer or physiotherapist about participating. Squatting too low is particularly stressful on weak or injured knees. Be sure to study the illustration and – I can’t stress this enough – please also check with a fitness instructor or physiotherapist. They have the knowledge to adjust any exercise. And as I mentioned above, if injured or unfit, you don't have to squat very low to benefit from this exercise.
If you are reasonably fit . . . and familiar with doing the squat, judge for yourself about doing more squats within the two minutes, if you like. And you can opt to squat as low or lower than shown in the illustration.
Already been doing the toothbrush squat for some time? You are a seasoned veteran! Go for the gusto and do it non-stop for the full two minutes and twice a day, if you like. But you should still be mindful about over-use injuries. Even professional athletes can be at risk for this. In a future tip, we'll be adding more variations and variety to offset any problems of overdoing daily, frequent high-rep movements. More variety avoids boredom too. In the meantime, be sure to stretch after each
TIP for everyone: Post a note on your bathroom counter or mirror to remind you to do this each morning (or evening). There are really no excuses for skipping it –except for illness or injury – because it requires no special equipment and you have to brush your teeth even while on holidays!
I hope you choose to follow this first lifestyle habit for longer than a week (before advancing to the next tip). As mentioned earlier, longer is actually better! Each of the eight tips will always be accessible on this Blog. You can access the tips whenever you are ready to move on to the next.
Have fun with this tip. Encourage family and friends to try it too. Pass this along to others who may be interested in boosting their metabolism.
If you do not want to follow this tip, then don’t. You can move on to the next one. But I do encourage you to at least try to participate in this first one.
When you are ready to move on to the next tip, here is the link: Tip # 2
Have a short question or comment about this particular tip? Feel free to e-mail me
Eve Lees is a Certified Nutrition Coach, a former Certified Personal Trainer, a Health Speaker, and a Health Writer for several publications. She has been active in the health & fitness industry for over 35 years.