The holiday season means plenty of shopping, cooking, eating, drinking and … exercise.
If you’re like most people, maybe not so much. Hectic schedules — coupled with colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours — prompt many people to throw their fitness routine to the curb until after the New Year.
But you don’t have to let yourself go during the holidays. Taking care of yourself, with exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep, is key for good health. Regular exercise can also increase your energy levels and ease holiday stress. Not to mention being active can help keep the eggnog and stuffing from lingering on your hips. The average person gains about one pound during the holiday season, but exercise can help you ward off this weight gain.
Here are five tips to help you keep your exercise regime in the middle of the holiday crunch:
1. Set realistic goals. If you usually run five days per week, shoot for three or four days each week during this busy time of year. If you normally spend an hour on the elliptical, just aim for 20 to 30 minutes. Likewise, save big goals — like losing 10 lbs or training for a marathon — until a time when you have fewer obligations. Strive to maintain your weight and fitness level during the holidays and rev it up again come January.
2. Plan ahead. Map out the day and set aside time for fitness. We tend to find time for our biggest priorities, so carve out some time in your day to be active. Take a walk on your lunch break, do a workout DVD instead of lounging in front of the TV or wake up 15 minutes earlier and start your day with a short yoga sequence.
3. Multitask. Skip the gym and get in a workout while crossing off items on your holiday to-do list. Power-walk while you shop, do lunges, push-ups and sit-ups while you wait for your pumpkin pie to bake and dance while you tidy the house. Remember that some exercise is always better than none.
4. Be flexible. Planned on going to the gym but mall traffic tied you up? Sometimes even the best of intentions get thwarted. Try to find time for a shortened exercise session later in the day. But don’t sweat it if you end up skipping a workout or two. Experts say we can usually afford to cut back on exercise for a few weeks without sacrificing fitness.
5. Create new traditions. The holidays are a joyful time to catch up and celebrate with loved ones. The laughter and reminiscing doesn’t have to take place around the dinner table, though. Now is the perfect time to create new, active traditions with your family. Gather the troops and play an annual Thanksgiving game of tough football, ask your friends to join you for a local “jingle jog” 5k race and take the kids ice skating on New Year’s Eve.
How do you motivate yourself to stay active over the holidays? I always remind myself that I’ll never regret doing a workout, but I’ll almost always regret skipping it.