The NFL is king. You’d be hard-pressed to find an American sport with more rabid fans, more passionate followers or a more immense viewing infrastructure.
Whether you’re cheering in the stands, settling in at the bar or parking on the couch, football Sunday is a sacred ritual in this country. It’s often sedentary, too.
But it doesn’t have to be. With research demonstrating that sitting still for long stretches can be as dangerous as smoking, and that watching TV is what we do most when we’re sedentary, there’s good reason to infuse some activity into NFL Sunday. And guess what? It can be fun. Here are four ways to add fitness to your football Sunday routine:
1. If you’re a fantasy football fanatic:
Fantasy football is almost as popular as the game it tracks: At this moment, more than 33 million people play it. That’s nearly twice the number of people who will attend an NFL game over the course the season and more people than populate 80 percent of countries on Earth.
If you’re one of them – or even if you’re not – borrow the virtual competition’s concept, but make it physical. For instance, pick a team or a few players during NFL games and decide with friends what exercise you’ll do during offensive, defensive, scoring plays and penalties. If the other team scores a field goal, for example, that may translate to three burpees. If your player makes a catch, that may mean you get to pick which friend does 10 pushups.
2. If you’re in the stands:
You are At. The. Game. Score! Any number of moments may make you want to jump out of your seat with excitement. And, as is the nature of football, there may be just as many instances that make you want to stamp your feet in frustration.
Use that energy to your advantage. Each time your team converts a first down, records a tackle for a loss, creates a turnover or scores points, just jump! Try three jumps for a field goal, six jumps for a touchdown and a single jump for the rest. Celebrate the little wins within the game and burn a bunch of calories in the process.
On the flip side, you must take the good with the bad. Your guy just held that defensive tackle? That’s a 5-yard penalty – and that means five squats for you.
3. If you’re at the bar:
If you can’t get to the game, the local sports bar is a great place to share the highs and lows of the game with others. But those 20 wings and several draft beers are less-than-ideal fuel for the sitting you’ll be doing for the next three to four hours.
But wait: You don’t have to stay seated. Instead, play the active version of fantasy football right along with your friends who made it to the game. That means victory jumps for points and game-changing plays. Oops, is that a penalty? That’s air squats for you, my friend.
Engaging your body in sports viewing might just be so fun that you don’t even realize you’re burning up to 10 calories for every minute you jump. If your team’s offense is running on all cylinders, that could add up to some high-energy output and a great way to break up the sitting time. A set of five air squats, meanwhile, can burn just over three calories. And since the average penalty yardage in an NFL game is 64, you’re likely to burn more than 50 calories just for playing along.
4. If you’re at home:
Involve your kids, parents and neighbors in the action. You can simply play a version of active fantasy football at home, or make up your own game-friendly movements. For example, during the commercial break between the kickoff and the first play of a drive, see who can get around the block the fastest.
Another way to break up TV time on Sundays is to play as a team. Mom and dad can compete against the kids. From partner situps to alternating “low-five” pushups, any exercise that can be done alone can be done with a buddy. Score total reps completed over a game or just see who can stick to the activity script the longest while watching your favorite teams on the gridiron. They key is to break up the sitting and inject fun movements into family football time. That way, even a loss for your team is a win for your body.
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