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The ABCs of Holiday Fitness

Starting with Halloween and until just after New Year’s Day, many of us alter our otherwise reasonable fitness routines to accommodate the holidays. Parties, tempting treats, and holiday preparations can detract from even the most disciplined exercisers’ routines. Having a fitness plan throughout the holidays can help you take control of and maintain your fitness and overall health.

Before you begin a new or intensify your current exercise routine,
talk with your Summit Medical Group practitioner
to ensure it’s safe for you to exercise.

Try these tips to stay active and fit throughout the holidays:

Adhere to Aerobic Activity
Engaging in moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity such as walking, running/jogging, swimming, cycling, and rowing for 20 minutes or more each day is ideal for burning excess holiday calories, while keeping your muscles (including your heart) and lungs strong, improving circulation, and lifting your spirits

Build in Back Up
Have a backup exercise time in mind for the days you must postpone your routine workouts. For example, if you exercise in the morning, have an alternate time after work or in the early evening to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes or more

Count Calories
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for having the energy and motivation to continue working out throughout the holidays. If you have exceeded your calories between meals or during a meal, cut back on calories for the next few meals to make up the difference

Divide and Conquer
If holiday work or home pressures prevent you from exercising as you’ve planned, ask a colleague or family member to help with obligations so that you can exercise. Getting a family member or friend to pick up the kids after school or asking a colleague to help with a few minor tasks might be just enough to allow you to fit in a 20-to-30-minute workout

Exercise Effectively
Exercising at the right intensity (about 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate) for your age and fitness can help you efficiently achieve your fitness goals. It’s also important to exercise long enough (20 minutes or more) in your training zone to burn calories to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight

o   Exercising in Your Training Zone
If you are a man, find your recommended maximum (or target) heart rate range for exercise by subtracting your age from the number 220. If you are age 30, for example, your maximum heart rate should be 220 - 30 or 190 beats per minute, if you are age 40, your maximum heart rate should be 220 - 40, or 180 beats per minute. If you are a woman, you subtract your age from 226

Favor Family and Friends
Walking, hiking, sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, and playing indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball, and tennis are fun and healthy ways to stay active and enjoy friends and family during the holidays

Get Going Early
Schedule your workouts in the morning to avoid being sidetracked by social gatherings and holiday preparations later in the day

Highlight Health
Instead of trying to achieve extraordinary fitness goals during the holidays, focus on maintaining your overall health by exercising consistently, even if you must shorten the length of time you exercise each day

Indulge intelligently
Enjoy holidays foods, including treats, in moderation and avoid keeping unnecessary treats around the house during the holidays. If you indulge in a dessert at dinner, cut back on calories the following day and try to add extra time to your work out

  • Join a Gym
    Taking new classes such as aerobics, kettle bell training, yoga, dance, a tennis clinic, or CrossFit, and enlisting the services of a personal trainer are great holiday gifts to yourself

Keep Consistent
The most important aspect of exercising during the holidays is consistency. Missing and occasional workout, having shorter-than-usual workouts are preferable to not exercising at all

Lead the Way
Being an exercise role model can help influence coworkers, friends, and family members to follow your path toward fitness and health during the holidays. Ask a coworker to walk with your during your lunch break, invite a neighbor for a walk instead of a meal, and encourage a friend and family members to join you at the gym

Make Muscle Matter
Strength training 2 to 3 times a week is good way to tone your muscles. When combined with aerobic exercise, it’s ideal for helping you maintain a healthy weight over the holidays

Note Your Progress
Keeping a calendar of your workout plan can help remind you to exercise each day during the holidays when you have holiday preparations on the mind. It’s also a good way to remind you to get back in action if you have taken a day or two off from your exercise routine

Observe Emotions
In addition to longer hours of darkness, the holidays can be emotional and stressful for many of us. Exercise is among the best ways to reduce stress and lift your spirits. If you’re feeling down or stressed, hit the gym, take a walk, or go for a run and take advantage of the daylight hours by cross country skiing or snowshoeing

Party With a Partner
Taking a dance or exercise class with your partner or a friend is a great way to have some holiday fun, while improving your cardiovascular fitness and burning up to 300 calories an hour

Quench Your Thirst
Because your body uses water continuously, it is important to balance the fluids you consume with the water your body absorbs and eliminates. Maintaining an adequate amount of fluid in the body is important at all times, but it’s especially important to drink more fluids when you exercise. Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise even during cold weather is important for your overall health. A good rule of thumb is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day and 4 ounces to 6 ounces of fluids for every 15 minutes of vigorous activity. Also, drinking 1 to 2 glasses of water before a meal can help you eat less before a holiday party

Rest and Recover
Getting plenty of rest is essential for having the energy and motivation to exercise. If you’re feeling excessively tired, take a break from exercise, get a good night’s sleep, and get back in the game the next day

Sneak in Steps
Add extra steps throughout your day. Instead of taking an elevator, use stairs. If you’re visiting the mall or grocery store, park as far from the entrance as possible. While you’re shopping, take an extra lap or 2 around the mall

Train With an Expert
Whatever your fitness level, working with an experienced personal fitness trainer is among the best ways to stick with your fitness routine during the holidays. Paying for personal training sessions in advance can help ensure you’ll get to the gym and exercise effectively once you’re there. A personal fitness trainer also can help motivate you to continue exercising when you’re distracted with holiday hoopla

Uncover New Activities
The holidays are a perfect time to try new things. If you’re a runner, take dance class or swim. If you’re a walker, put bursts of running/jogging into your daily walk. Check out the local skating rink with your kids. If you’ve never been a member of a gym, give yourself a gym membership for the holidays

Vary Your Exercise
The best way to boost your metabolism and ensure you are strong and fit overall is to engage in a variety of exercises/activities that work different muscles

  • Work With the Weather
    Don’t wait until conditions are right for exercising. If you enjoy exercising outdoors during the cold weather, dress appropriately. Layer clothes for warmth and comfort. Wear fast-drying fabrics such as polyester blends that wick away moisture and help keep you warm. Be sure your shoes fit, are made for the activity you’ve chosen, and have nonslip soles. If the conditions outside are too extreme for your walk or run, use exercise DVDs at home or try a treadmill at the gym. Malls also can be good places to get in a fast walk without weather worries

eXpect the uneXpected
Even the best laid exercise plans can be derailed with unexpected invitations and obligations over the holidays. Plan the holiday months knowing your routine will vary. Rather than being aggravated by interruptions to your exercise routine, embrace them knowing the holidays are special and changing your routine can help you discover new ways and times to exercise

Yield to Yoga
In addition to helping you maintain your fitness throughout the holidays, exercise yoga is ideal for getting a break from holiday stress. If you haven’t taken an exercise class before or if it’s been a while since you took your last yoga class, treat yourself to yoga for the holidays

Zone in on Zumba
A Latin-inspired dance fitness program for people of all ages, Zumba burns an average 530 calories an hour. It’s is a great way to vary your holiday exercise routine while improving cardiovascular fitness, strengthening/toning muscles, improving balance, and enhancing mobility, agility, and flexibility. Like other dances, Zumba also is a great way to relieve stress and boost your spirits

Enjoy the holidays. Missing a day or two of exercise won't make or break your exercise routine and health plan. The key is to limit interruptions to your holiday exercise routine and maximize your opportunities for being active. Taking your overall activity into account, trying new exercise options, and being consistently active is the best way to maintain your fitness level during the holidays. Remember that every activity you add to your day counts toward your fitness during the holidays and year 'round!