Written by Perry L. Savage, M.D., of OrthoAlabama Spine & Sports
Staying active during the holidays is a common challenge that many face, but with the right guidance, it is achievable. With festive gatherings, tempting foods and incredibly busy schedules, it is difficult to know how to stay active. Whether you are trying to maintain your fitness, shed a few pounds or take a step toward a healthier lifestyle, these tips will help you navigate the festivities so you can enjoy the benefits of exercise during this busy time of year.
Plan Your Workouts Ahead of Time
Between all the meals, activities and preparations, how can anyone find the time to be active? It’s simple—plan ahead.
By going into each day with a game plan, you can avoid postholiday grogginess. For travelers or holiday homebodies, find out what options you have to keep yourself moving.
If you are traveling and staying at a hotel, look into whether or not the hotel has a gym or research nearby gyms that offer day passes. Another option is to investigate nearby trails to walk, run or bike.
If you are staying with family, ask them if they have equipment you can use or, if they have a membership at a gym, find out if the gym allows guests. To make things convenient, opt for simple workouts that don’t require much space or equipment.
Add These Workouts
During the holidays, workout equipment may not always be available, especially if you are traveling. Fortunately, staying active doesn’t require equipment. All you need is a flat surface and a plan. Here are equipment-free exercises ideal for any setting, be it the airport, your hotel room or a park:
- Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your body as if you are sitting in a chair. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your knees should not go past your toes. Rise back up and focus on proper form and breathing. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Lunges: Step forward with one foot and lower your body until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Rise back up to a standing position and alternate. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Planks: Start in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and your body straight. Activate your core and keep your back straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Crunches: Lie on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Put your hands behind your head and lift your upper body using your abdominal muscles, then lower back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Dips: Start with your hands on a stable surface behind you with your fingers facing forward. Extend your legs in front of you and lower your body by bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Then, push back up. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Push-ups: Begin in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width and your arms and body straight. Lower your chest toward the ground by bending your elbows. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, push back up to the starting position. For easier push-ups, get on your knees and cross your ankles. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
While staying hydrated during your workout is common knowledge, it can also help with getting the most out of your holiday meals. Drinking plenty of water before your big holiday meal can assist in better digestion and fire up your metabolism. This can also prevent stomach issues later. The brain can confuse thirst and hunger, so before getting your second plate, try drinking a glass of water to curb calorie intake and help avoid overeating.
Incorporate Movement Into Your Itinerary
Managing your time during the holidays could make or break the experience. Whether you plan a destination holiday trip or a local home holiday, you can take small steps to stay active as you carry on with your day. The following are easy ways to implement movement:
- Park further away
- Take the stairs
- Walk around for five minutes every hour to avoid prolonged sitting
- Go on a hike
- Create family traditions with new activities
Take Advantage of Downtime
Although the holidays can be busy, you can often find time between activities to do some light exercise. If you are spending the holiday with family, there is a good chance that other family members of all ages will want to get active to. Plan a game of football, tag or hide-and-seek to get the heart racing.
Another option is offering to help with housework, such as raking leaves or helping in the kitchen. If you are the one who is in charge of the meal, take a walk while your prized casserole cooks in the oven.
Look for a Holiday Fun Run
When it comes to the holidays, there are many activities you can do and events you can attend. Some of these include holiday-themed fun runs. There is usually a small fee and they are open to everyone at any activity level, from hard-core runners to those who prefer to walk the trail with friends.
Typically, they are 5K runs, which is just over 3 miles. Hang out in the back of the pack if you want to do a more leisurely pace. If you are looking for a challenge, set yourself up in the front and get ready to run.
Embrace the festivities of the holiday-themed fun run by flashing a Rudolph nose or showing up in a full Santa suit. It isn’t a fun run without a little fun. Make the experience even better by bringing along some friends to do it together. After the run, find a way to celebrate together to reward yourselves for all your hard work. You’ve certainly earned it!
It is easy to get distracted over the holidays and fall out of your routine, but with a bit of determination and guidance, it is entirely feasible to stick with it. Implementing these tips enables you to enjoy the holiday season, reach your fitness goals and maintain your motivation without major setbacks that could take weeks or months to reverse.