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Sinead Ryan: Shop till you drop -- it's good for you

You've shopped till you've dropped between Christmas and the January sales and are now probably feeling more than a bit knackered after all the exertion -- the same as a couple of hours at the gym and, in fact, you wouldn't be far wrong.

Yes, the good news is that shopping for bargains is just as beneficial for you as pumping iron. New research by Debenhams has shown that women burn off 385 calories on average every week just by shopping.

Hauling heavy bags and bargain hunting through the crowds increases the heart rate and workload on your body -- the equivalent of two glasses of wine -- which of course, is the reward for so much effort.

The average woman walks more than 254km per year searching for that must have dress, the right shoes or simply buying the weekly groceries. It's the equivalent of walking from Dublin to Cork, although half the women polled don't regard the energy used by shopping as 'real' exercise.

Well, it should be by all accounts. We use up 7,305 steps each time we head out for a busy day at the shops -- three quarters of the way towards the 10,000 steps a day that experts recommend to maintain fitness levels.

Champion shoppers and bargain hunters can add valuable upper body workouts by elbowing others out of the way, pushing open heavy department store doors and lugging bags.

And just window shopping or browsing is valuable exercise too. Most women cover nearly 5km a day in two and a half hours wandering around.

Men, on the other hand, if we were ever in doubt, are rubbish shoppers. The study showed that they give up after just 50 minutes, reaching the end of their tether after a mere two kilometres. Contrary to what they might think, standing outside the shop holding your bags doesn't count as exercise. Neither does sitting in the car beeping the horn impatiently.

Like all exercises though, you have to start slowly and build up your training.



MUSCLES

A nice walk to the hairdressers should do the trick and the essential cool-down recommended by all the experts (so the muscles don't seize) would be best aided by a trip to the beauty salon for a nice pedicure afterwards.

You're only copying those top athletes like Brian O'Driscoll and Sonia O'Sullivan who always seem to be getting massages and physio done, aren't you?

We gals always knew shopping was an art form, so how nice to have it confirmed as top exercise too. We should really have known all along. Expert shoppers and serious bargain hunters always wear flat comfortable shoes for a serious day's work, and they clearly know what they're talking about.

Only the beginners wear tottery high heels which are going to collapse at the first '50pc off' sign. No, to navigate your way to the "All tops half price" signs, past the "Buy one, get one free" section and onto the "Final Reductions" ticker tape, runners are the only sensible option.

More than half the 2,000 women polled said they were more exhausted after a day's heavy shopping than spending hours in the gym but 63pc said they didn't think it was "proper" exercise. Nonsense! We're just not good at giving ourselves credit when it's due.

So next time you're hitting the shops you can feel really good about yourself. A few stretches towards the shoe racks; gentle lunges at the bargain rail and hoisting those bags onto your shoulders and you can almost feel the calories burning off. Ooh, work through the pain, ladies.


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