'Tis the season of heaping plates, sweet treats, endless holiday parties, lazy days off work and all-too-often, expanding waistlines.
In an interview with dailyRx News, Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, said, "So many people get very worried about the holiday season because they see friends and family eat poorly, stop exercising and gain weight."
However, all does not have to be lost during the holiday season. There are plenty of ways to stay fit through this season of indulgences while still enjoying the celebrations.
There's no reason to wait until New Year's to make a resolution — you can resolve now to make healthy choices during this holiday season.
How Much Is Enough?
How much activity do adults need? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need at least 150 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and weight training muscle-strengthening activities per week.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or "cardio," is anything that gets your heart pumping faster and breath flowing harder, said CDC. This includes brisk walking or riding a bike on fairly level ground. Weight training muscle-strengthening is any activity that works all the major muscle groups — from lifting weights to resistance exercises using body weight to yoga to heavy gardening.
Trying to maintain this minimum during the holidays can go a long way in helping you stay fit. And according to CDC, the more physical activity you can add in every week, the more health benefits you will gain.
A big part part of fitting this activity in during the holidays is planning ahead for it. Taking time to schedule workouts and healthy meals is an important step to staying fit, Crowell told dailyRx News.
"You will have parties, family get-togethers, school functions and a handful of other events that you have to attend. That will force you to plan your workouts ahead," explained Crowell. "If you are out of town make sure to have a gym membership setup for the time that you are in a different city. Make sure to have quality food in the fridge instead of nothing but candy and 'comfort food.'"
This step alone will go a really long way, said Crowell.
For some, the schedule becomes more relaxed during the holidays. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) pointed out that many people have extra time off from work or school during this time. Taking advantage of the more relaxed schedule and fitting in some exercise can be great, not only for the time being, but it can also be a great opportunity to make exercise a new habit.
Make Activity a Part of the Celebration
The ADA suggested a number of holiday tips for staying active that can prove helpful to diabetes patients and non-patients alike. One great suggestion is to sign up for a local holiday run or walk, like a turkey trot or Christmas run. By having this event on the calendar (and registration completed), you will commit to exercise not only the day of the event, but training in order to prepare.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggested incorporating physical activity into the celebration and family time.
"… [R]emember to increase your physical activity during the holiday season by going for a family walk after each meal or gathering," recommended AHA. "Shooting hoops, jumping rope or playing catch are also good family activities."
By making activity an integral part of the holiday, not a chore you have to squeeze in solo, you can help reduce a major barrier to holiday exercise.
ADA gave another clever suggestion: "Offer to help clean up after a meal instead of sitting in front of leftover food. This will help you avoid snacking on it and get you moving around!"
You are In Control
Crowell recommends a number of tips to his clients during the holiday season, including reminding themselves that they have the ultimate power of choice, even when Grandma is pressuring a second helping.
"Remember that you are always in control: you have the final say on what food you put in your body," said Crowell. "It may be a challenging thing to say no to in the beginning, but if you want to stay healthy over the break you need to take a stand."
When the pressure gets high, Crowell recommended checking in with your motivation for being fit and healthy.
"You must always remember your why," urged Crowell. "Do you want to be an energetic parent? Perhaps you want to be more effective at your job? Whatever your rationale, you need to remember these reasons over the holiday break because good nutrition and exercise will really benefit you in all aspects of life."
Allow Some Indulgences
Finally, Crowell offers this piece of advice to clients aiming to stay fit through the holidays: "If you want it badly enough you will succeed."
"It's perfectly ok to let yourself get off track as long as you are aware that you are doing that," said Crowell. "Just make sure that if you badly want or (more importantly) need to stay or get more healthy that you need to stay on track even during a tough period of time.
So sure, grab a slice of pumpkin pie or snag a Christmas cookie, but just do so consciously. In this way, you acknowledge that you want to stray. But remember your goals and motivations, and stray in a way that allows you a little bite of sweets without going overboard and gobbling up the whole pie.
"If you overindulge, get back on track," said ADA, who also stressed that you shouldn't consider this a failure. "Stop eating for the night and focus on spending the rest of your time with the people around you."
All this effort to stay fit during the holidays is sure to pay off. According to Crowell, "When you make quality changes and stick to them you will realize that you can accomplish amazing things!"
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Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D
Citation: American Heart Association, "Making Holiday Traditions Healthy' American Diabetes Association, "Seven Holiday Tips" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "How much physical activity do adults need?"