Holiday fitness survival guide
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…
Growing up in southern California, the holidays consisted of palm trees, sun and Santa’s on surfboards. Jack Frost did nip our noses in the mornings, but by the afternoon we were sunning ourselves on the beach. I remember one year when I was in elementary school, we looked out the window and it was snowing! The teachers let all of us out to play in it because they knew how special the moment was. It only snowed for 10 minutes, but we were beyond excited!
We all dream of cozy moments during the holidays, but the reality can be far different. Regardless of where we live, we often swap out the “heavenly peace” for battling crowds at
he mall and eating our way through those holiday parties with their abundance of food and yummy drinks. Before we know it the holidays have stolen our joy and increased our waistlines.
So how do we enjoy parties without fear of unwanted weight gain, take pleasure in cozy moments spent with loved ones and fill the season with joy?
Here are a few simple steps for a healthy holiday season:
- Breathe. Did you know that simply taking a few deep breaths can turn on oxytocin and turn off cortisol? Cortisol called the “stress hormone,” contributes to waistline weight gain, anxiety, and shallow breathing. Oxytocin turns off this stress hormone, lowers your blood pressure and turns on the body’s “relaxation response.” Try this, sit comfortably and breathe in through your nose. Concentrate on breathing through the abdomen and not the chest. Hold that breath one or two seconds. Exhale through your mouth until all your breath is completely released. Wait one or two seconds and then repeat the steps. Try five or six deep cleansing breaths. Take one or two minutes each day to breathe deeply. Before you know it, you’ll be cleaning out that cortisol and finding yourself “feeling good.”
- Exercise. Don’t skip those 30 minutes of daily exercise. In fact, shopping can give you just what you need for the day. Take a lap around the mall after each purchase. You’ll introduce strength training into your laps as those purchases add up. Author, National Director for First Place 4 Health, and Body & Soul Fitness Instructor Vicki Heath suggests putting your sneakers in your car so that they are available if you find yourself with some extra time before an appointment. Put them on and use that time to get in a walk. Studies show that 10 minutes of exercise 3 times a day equals the 30-minute goal.
- Eat smart. Prepare ahead of time for those holiday parties. Eat a healthy meal before heading off to the party. You’ll be full and snack less. If you do snack, cover ¾ of your plate with fruits and vegetables and only leave a small space for those higher calorie tempters. Choose sparkling water with a strawberry,
lemon, or lime added for fun, festive sipping. Don’t skip breakfast. Eating in the morning will help control cravings later on. Pack an insulated cooler with healthy snacks to have on hand when you just need a quick bite.
- Laugh. How about gathering some friends together this season and watching a holiday comedy like “Elf” or “Scrooged?” We’ve all heard the old adage “Laughter is the best medicine.” Turns out it’s true. Laughter has the ability to relax the whole body, increase your immune system, inspire hope, release those “feel good hormones,” boost your energy, diminish pain, protect the heart, and the best of all it’s free. Laughter connects us and increases happiness and intimacy. Who doesn’t want that? My best friend is a great example of this. She is so fun to watch movies with because she laughs so quickly and her laughter is infectious. Before I know it, I’m laughing right along with her at something
I may not have if I were watching the same movie alone.
These are just a few simple suggestions to help you create healthy, happy holidays. What tips have you found that keep you saying Ho, Ho, Ho?