Shopping definitely thins out the wallet, but can it also slim the waistline? Two tbt* reporters armed themselves with shopping lists, pedometers and experts' opinions to determine how many calories, if any, a shopper burns during Black Friday at the mall. Here's a recap of their trip to the brand-spanking-new Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. — Helen Anne Travis and Mike Camunas
Word nerds that they are, Mike and Helen Anne started their day at Barnes and Noble. No better way to burn calories than to make the lazy mind work.
The bargain coffee table books were heavy and cheap. The reporters set up camp.
Mike chose a hardcover biography (30 percent off) of the Olsen twins, which easily weighed more than Mary Kate and Ashley combined. Helen Anne flipped through a massive Hard Rock Guitar for Dummies and tried to memorize the chords for Guns N' Roses' Sweet Child o' Mine.
The experts were pleased with their attempts at muscle toning.
"When you hold a book, you're flexing your muscles," said Vanessa Brockhouse, 26, a certified fitness specialist who runs Triumph Fitness in Wesley Chapel. "It's not a huge workout, but it is beneficial."
Walking around the mall with the book purchases, or any bag of goods, made the fitness experts even happier. Supposedly, it's like strapping weights to your appendages.
"You're adding weight to your own body weight, which increases your heart rate and works the muscles," said Ty Pena, 49, a personal trainer and owner of Club Bodfit in Tampa. "Over a long period of time, you could possibly lose an inch or two, just by shopping."
"Someone who weighs 150 pounds, carrying 15 pounds of something, walking at 3 miles an hour, would burn 246 calories in an hour," Brockhouse said.
In Helen Anne's hunt for the perfect Florida boot, she tried on a dozen pairs (while looking at more than 100). Those snakeskin and leather suckers sure were heavy.
Mike spent at least 20 minutes slipping in and out of American Eagle jeans. A couple of seductive looks from the female staff made him offer the ladies two tickets to the gun show (wink wink), helping build his biceps.
The repetitive sitting and standing up of shoe shopping is reminiscent of squats, our experts agreed. And the reaching necessary to slip on new shirts counts for something. It may not as good as working a Bowflex, but, hey, who has time for that during the holidays?
A fitness shopper's best friend is a set of stairs. Up, down, again and again — it raises your heart rate, and "it works the glutes, which everybody wants," Pena said.
But in this state-of-the-art mall, stairs were not easy to come by. "I get my exercise taking the staircase in the parking garage," a Dillard's sales clerk confided.
In Macy's, Mike picked up a pack of Ralph Lauren stretch rib bikini briefs for men.
"You could try on the lingerie, and I could try on the briefs," he suggested. "I mean, in the sake of journalism ... "
"Please stop talking," Helen Anne said.
Dirty-minded Mike (sort of) had a point, according to the fitness pros.
"When you get aroused, your heart rate does speed up," Brockhouse said. "When your heart rate speeds up, you burn more calories."
The reporters were wiped out after 21/2 hours at the mall, which is nothing compared with the hours logged by Black Friday shoppers.
According to her pedometer, Helen Anne walked 2.9 miles, burned 174 calories and took 6,426 steps. Mike's said 3.1 miles, burning 190 calories with 7,044 steps.
So after a day at the mall, can a person go home and pour some boozed-up egg nog and enjoy A Charlie Brown Christmas all the while realizing they did a body good?
"The average person doesn't exercise on a day like Black Friday. These people are going to be at the mall for hours. They're going to burn a thousand calories easy," Brockhouse said. "That's significant."