Do you approach the holiday season feeling overwhelmed by what needs to get done? There’s shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, parties … and more parties. Despite all these “to-dos,” there’s another essential thing that should top your list: exercise.
This second in our series of “healthy holiday tips” focuses on ways to make exercise part of your holiday routine. As the holiday season begins, it’s important to get the exercise you need for your physical and mental health. Although the American Heart Association recommends physical activity on most, if not all days of the week, you can start this holiday season with something more “doable.” Try to fit in as much exercise as possible, with the realization that some exercise is better than none. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week is optimal. And, remember, now isn’t the time to set lofty goals for weight loss or working out, but to maintain your weight and do some form of exercise through the holidays.
The key is to establish an exercise routine now, and carry that throughout the winter, spring, summer, fall … A routine may be difficult at first, but once it becomes just that — routine — you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
6 tips for a more motivated “you” this holiday season:
- Don’t undo calories you’ve already burned. Oftentimes, the fact that we’ve worked out gives us the mental “go-ahead” to splurge on a favorite appetizer or dessert at a holiday party or dinner. Your workout should be thought of as a healthy accomplishment on its own — not an “all-clear” to indulge in unhealthy food.
- Don’t let anything interfere with your exercise routine. Make your workout a structured part of your day. Aim for a morning or lunchtime workout. Find a buddy who you know will be waiting for you, and vice versa. Schedule your workouts on your calendar or phone to serve as a reminder to get up and get moving.
- Think differently about your workout. Don’t view exercise as a way to burn calories, but as a way to become healthier and to feel and look better.
- Embrace technology. If high-tech gadgets are your thing, look into electronic devices like Jawbone or Fitbit, which are designed to help motivate you by tracking your activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. They can also provide a virtual support system that connects you with like-minded individuals.
- Be physically active every day. If you can’t work out, try to be physically active in other ways: aim for a higher number of steps that day, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog around the block one more time.
- Remember, it’s all about balance. Exercising not only gives you more energy to get through the holidays, it can also:
- Ease anxiety, stress and depression that seem to be more evident during holidays.
- Help build self-esteem, so you tend to make healthier choices.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Help you sleep.
- Boost your endorphins, which reduces the stressors in your body.
Think of your healthy routine as the gift you give yourself this holiday season.You’ll arrive at the New Year feeling encouraged and motivated to keep up the good work. As part of the holiday season, consider the gift of good health for yourself or others. The U-M Metabolic Fitness Program accepts new patients each month who are particularly interested in optimizing their lifestyle to prevent heart diseases, stroke and diabetes. Take the next step:
Kari Smith, M.Ed., has extensive experience in stress testing and cardiac rehabilitation, as well as additional training in healthy lifestyle and weight-loss coaching. She is a yoga instructor at Domino’s Farms Phase III Fitness Center and is an educator in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. She earned her master’s degree in exercise physiology from Wayne State University and her undergraduate degree in psychology from Michigan State University.
Samantha Fink is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist certified by the American College of Sports Medicine. She is involved with the U-M Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and the Metabolic Fitness Program. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.