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The skinny on shopping: It's a workout of sorts

Spent from trolling for bargains at the Shops at Wiregrass, Times writers Helen Anne Travis and Mike Camunus take a break. After a 21/2-hour mall excursion, pedometers showed that each walked about 3 miles and burned 174 to 190 calories.


Spent from trolling for bargains at the Shops at Wiregrass, Times writers Helen Anne Travis and Mike Camunus take a break. After a 21/2-hour mall excursion, pedometers showed that each walked about 3 miles and burned 174 to 190 calories.

Shopping definitely thins out the wallet, but could it also slim the waistline?

Two Times reporters armed themselves with shopping lists, pedometers and two experts' opinions to determine how many calories, if any, a shopper burns in a Black Friday at the mall.

Here's a recap of their trip to Shops at Wiregrass, the fancy-schmancy, brand-spanking-new mall in Wesley Chapel.

• • •

Word nerds that they are, Mike and Helen Anne started their day at Barnes & 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, 30 percent off biography 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 staffers made him offer the ladies two tickets to the gun show (wink, wink), helping to build his biceps.

Can a shopper rack up any fitness points in the dressing room?

"It's not like this person is going to be buff tomorrow," Brockhouse said, "but it's definitely more beneficial than if they were just walking the mall."

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?

"Consider trying on clothes and shoes and boots as a form of stretching," Pena said.

• • •

A fitness shopper's best friend is a set of stairs. Up, down, again and again — it's just another way to get the breathing going hard.

"Your heart rate is going to go up when you walk up the stairs, which in turn burns more calories," Brockhouse said.

"It works the glutes, which everybody wants," Pena agreed.

In Dillard's, the reporters could find only an escalator. They asked a sales clerk if the store had any stairs. She said there was an elevator between the Daniel Cremieux section and the door. Stairs in this state-of-the-art mall? No such luck.

"I get my exercise taking the staircase in the parking garage," the 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, for the sake of journalism …"

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 to the hours logged by rise-and-shop Black Friday-ites.

According to Helen Anne's pedometer, she 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.

He claimed he logged more miles climbing the steps at Forever 21 — the only store they found with stairs — while she tried on dozens of $12.99 tops.

Helen Anne didn't want to embarrass him by pointing out he may have overguessed the length of his stride.

"Pedometers are not foolproof. They depend on the height of the person and length of their steps," Pena said

So after a day at the mall, can a person go home, pour some boozed-up eggnog and enjoy A Charlie Brown Christmas while realizing that he or she 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."

"It's a lot better than sitting on a couch and pressing the remote on the television," Pena added.


A leaner

you for life

Shopping is not the only way to burn calories (though it may be the most fun). Here are some tips from the experts to keep the pounds off, and none cost as much as a day at the mall.

• Aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week. Stretching and weight training are also important.

• Go for a walk with the family after holiday meals.

• Park far away from the store when shopping.

• Eat small meals throughout the day.

• Drink lots of water.

• Think of the long-term effects of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise helps prevent obesity, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Beware the

food court

You shopped all day. Don't blow it with a greasy meal at the food court. Here's how far back some typical mall foods could set you:

Chick fil-A

12 nuggets: 400 calories, 19 grams of fat

Sbarro Pizza

Slice of cheese pizza: 459 calories, 13 grams of fat

Panda Express

Kung Pao Chicken: 240 calories, 15 grams of fat

Great American Cookie Co.

1.8 ounce chocolate chip cookie: 230 calories, 12 grams of fat

The skinny on shopping: It's a workout of sorts 11/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 27, 2008 9:07pm]
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