December 17, 2019

Tips for Exercising Through the Holidays

Starting in the fall, not only does daylight get shorter, but it feels like there is less time in the day. We all know that something tends to give when schedules get busy. Unfortunately, for many of us, our personal health and fitness is the first thing to go. 

Of course, we know we should be taking care of ourselves. Maintaining exercise and physical activity will help us stay healthy and energetic no matter what the season brings. And, even more important, our mood is better and we're more positive and upbeat when we keep physically active. 

When there isn't a lot of time, how can you keep your fitness (exercise, physical activity, etc) commitment? Consider these tips from the staff of the UW Health Sports Medicine Fitness Center:

1. See the “big picture”

Fitness and good health are life-long pursuits. Your goal of good health and fitness isn’t achieved or ruined based on the actions taken over a three- or four-week holiday season. Don't weigh yourself every day. Don't stress if you enjoy too much rich food at a family meal. And do not beat yourself up if you temporarily veer off your exercise schedule.

2. Prioritize

It never hurts to really think about what is most important to you. And, while it may feel selfish, taking time for exercise and physical activity is important for your physical AND your mental health.

3. Plan and Schedule

When making your To Do list for a busy December day, be sure to write a favorite form of exercise right there with your other “must do” errands.  “Go Swimming” should appear on the same list as errands and groceries.

4. Make physical activity-centered gathering plans

Always meet a friend (or friends) for a meal and gift exchange? How about suggesting a holiday lights walk, or a ski or ice-skating outing (conditions permitting) as the focus of the gathering? Your friends will probably welcome the change and healthier alternative. After all, it’s the people that makes getting together special and moving together is one of the best ways of being together.

5. Sneak in bursts of play

This is especially easy when you have younger children around. Join the children and/or grandchildren on the sledding hill or at the ice rink. Better yet, be the ring leader – challenge them to a snowball fight, game of tag, or other goofy shenanigans. Not only will you be active, but you’ll solidify your status as favorite parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, etc.!

6. Be prepared

Carry physical activity gear with you when you head to a holiday gathering. If you're packing your car with presents and food, be sure to also pack your boots, hats and any other clothes needed for activity (outdoor or indoor). Of course, having the appropriate exercise clothes (and shoes) makes it possible to “steal a half hour” on your host’s treadmill, elliptical, or other home exercise equipment as well.

7. Home/Travel Workouts

Busy schedules and holiday travel can make visits to your regular exercise facility/fitness center difficult. Consider a quick home or travel workout using resistance bands or tubing. Check out our simple strength and flexibility exercise ideas (pdf) that can be performed wherever you are.

8. Shopping tricks

For better or worse, shopping is an unavoidable necessity for most holiday plans and events. But you can turn it into an exercise opportunity when you park farther away or take a lap or two before entering your destination store.

Move whenever you can and enjoy celebrating with friends and family.

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