During the Holidays, Don’t Neglect Your Fitness Routine

Related topics: Getting Enough Exercise, Eating Right

This is the time of year when most of us tend to put on a few extra pounds. It's pretty hard to avoid, with the huge Thanksgiving feast leading right into all those holiday parties, topped off with Christmas dinner and then a New Year's Eve indulgence!

Those of us who are watching our weight might think that diligent patrolling of what goes on our plates is the best way to avoid the unwanted "gift" of a few pounds. Of course, it's smart to limit heavy sauces, gravy, eggnog, fattening desserts and Christmas candy. But we might be even better served by paying attention to our activity level! This is the time of year when our running shoes stay in the closet, our treadmill develops cobwebs, and the people at our gym forget our name.

To avoid an unpleasant New Year's surprise when we step on the scale, a little creativity helps! Grab five or ten minutes of activity here and there throughout the day. Studies show that if you're getting the same total minutes per week, these smaller doses can be just as beneficial.

Here are some ideas to help you be your own holiday cheer-leader:

Shop 'til you drop! Well, not literally, but did you know that researchers speculate that decreased exercise rather than increased food intake is responsible for today's obesity epidemic? The trend to shopping online is part of the trend toward reduced activity—for almost all of us except delivery drivers. Shopping can be good exercise as you walk from store to store, carrying shopping bags. As a bonus, you'll be supporting your local merchants by shopping in "brick and mortar" stores.

Park far away from the mall entrance. During this time of year when the parking lots are full, don't even bother circling around the close-in spaces waiting for another shopper to pull out. Just select a distant spot, and enjoy the short walk. (Of course, you'll want to be alert for personal safety and the possibility of icy pavement.)

Give the gift of fitness. For the people you care about, choose a gym membership, a gift certificate to a sports footwear store, an IOU for transportation to the local senior center, an active video game system, or home gym equipment—and if your family tends to drop little hints for Santa, leave a brochure of your own choices on the table!

Include your guests. If you have a house full of out-of-town visitors, suggest that instead of catching up while sitting on the couch, you all take a walk in a local park. If the wintery weather is too much, visit a local museum or other indoor attraction that the out-of-towners would enjoy.

Let it snow! If it's snowing, put on your boots and take some of the younger family members sledding. Or get a little muscle strengthening activity by building a snowman.

Bring fitness along. If you're traveling for the holidays, be sure to bring along some good walking shoes. Work in some sightseeing in the area where you're visiting. If you usually work out with weights, bring lightweight rubber tubing for a bit of resistance training.

Put on some holiday music and dance! Dancing can be great aerobic exercise, and provides a mood boost, as well.

Ask for help. If you are a family caregiver and the person you care for lives with you, would visitors be willing to spend some time with your loved one while you go for a walk? This is one of the best gifts family and friends can give!

Adding a few of these activities will help you stay on track with your fitness goals. As a side benefit, exercise reduces stress—something else that is in abundance during this joyful but busy time of year! Talk to your healthcare provider about a year-round exercise program that's right for you.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2014 IlluminAge. IlluminAge wishes joyous holidays to you and yours!

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