Written by: Allison McNamara, PT, DPT
It’s hard enough to exercise during the year but add holidays into the mix and many of us find exercise becomes a low priority. It is easy to skip exercising during the holiday season – with busy schedules, needing to fit in shopping, family obligations and holiday parties. However, regular exercise – especially during the holidays – can help to reduce stress, improve your sleep, maintain your fitness levels, prevent weight gain, and even prevent injury with typical cold weather tasks like shoveling snow and walking on slippery sidewalks.
Regular exercise helps to release endorphins which helps manage stress related to the holidays as well as feelings associated with seasonal depression. It also provides a healthy outlet for stress, which can lead to overeating and allows a mental break from your daily routine. Regular exercise can also give you energy.
Try some of these strategies to help you stay active during the season of overindulgence.
- Keep moving.
Too much sitting is bad for your health. Research shows that getting up for just five minutes every 30-60 minutes and performing light activity (for example, pacing around the house or performing simple squat exercises) reduces risk of diabetes and other heart disease risk. Be creative with exercise and look for fun ways that make physical activity a family affair. Try taking a family walk around the neighborhood before opening presents, explore new group fitness classes or play music and dance at home.
- Have a plan.
Remember there is always time and opportunity for a workout. Plan your workouts for the week to ensure they are a part of your day. Also, remember that some exercise is better than none. If there is no time for the gym, find at least 15 minutes to do body-weight exercises (i.e., pushups, planks, pullups, or squats).
- Stay hydrated.
Your brain can sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. A large glass of water before a meal (especially before considering seconds) can help the amount of food you consume. Drink six to eight glasses of water per day and be sure to have two big glasses of water before the big, calorie-rich meals.
- Exercise early and sleep.
Make sure your workouts are in the morning, so you don’t get distracted later in the day by parties, events, or other holiday commitments. And get plenty of rest to stay stress-free.
You don’t even have to go to the gym to exercise – you can perform exercises at home with minimal equipment and still build strength while also challenging your cardiovascular system. Exercising at home also allows you to work out according to your own schedule – you can split your workout into 10–15-minute segments or perform an entire 30–45-minute workout at once. At-home workouts afford you privacy as well and you never have to worry about traveling in bad weather or the availability of equipment.
How to Get Motivated
Staying motivated to work out can be tough, but there are ways to trick yourself into exercising. Here are a few great ways to stay motivated and maintain your activity level.
- Track your steps and exercise with a fitness tracker.
- Make sure you exercise with a playlist, podcast, or show you only listen to or watch when you exercise.
- Tell yourself that you only have to do 15 minutes and then you can stop – by the time you get 15 minutes into your workout, you will probably be in the zone and complete your program.
- Change your routine often. Having a variety of choices of exercise, helps to keep your program interesting and will keep you motivated to move every day.
Whether you’re exercising at home or in the gym, going for a long walk or performing a group fitness class, staying active during the holidays is so important and key for mental and physical health. Happy holidays!
If you are experiencing pain that’s making it difficult to exercise, contact Professional Physical Therapy for an assessment and/or physical therapy evaluation, so you can get your life healthier and more comfortable today!