People may believe that weight gain and loss of strength and flexibility is just a part of the holiday season. But is this really true? The more likely explanation is that we use it as an excuse.
Staying active over the Christmas holidays doesn't have to be painful, boring or time-consuming. To get you moving, we look at how to make it easier without sacrificing your seasonal fun.
Why Do We Stop Moving?
There are a number of reasons why we might stop exercising over the festive season. Everyone is different, but the excuses that are most common include:
- Not enough time to exercise; too much to do
- The weather isn't good for exercising
- It takes away from time with family and friends
- Don't feel like exercising after eating so much
The truth is, although these might seem like valid reasons, they are just excuses. Each of them has a solution if you look hard enough.
Why Is Movement So Important?
Does it really matter if we have a month or so off exercise? It can. Human fitness was never supposed to be something we take long breaks from.
Fitness and activity have a wide variety of health benefits. There's too many to count, but some of the most noted include:
- Better quality sleep
- Better moods
- Less anxiety and depression
- Better self esteem and confidence
- Lower chance of injury
- Higher bone density
- A healthier heart
- Improved detoxification and immune functions
- Lower chance of overweight and obesity related issues
- Higher chance of healthier life choices overall
- Lower mortality from many causes
- Better stress management
- A stronger body
If you want to achieve any, or all, of these benefits, you need to be consistent in your efforts to move your body. Some can be yours with just a short walk each day.
Another thing to note is that if you stop moving, you lose momentum. So, if you've been good for a few months about keeping your body strong and fit, but then take December off, your motivation wanes.
Finally, activity is one of the core ingredients to a happy, healthy life. If we give up one aspect of this life, such as exercise, the others are far more likely to slip. The next thing you know, you're curled up on the couch for a week straight without a vegetable in sight.
Movement is an important part of every month, not just the months that don't have holidays or long weekends. Let's face it, if we take every holiday off from wellness, we won't be very healthy in the long run.
How to Make Active Living Work Over the Season
So, you know that you should keep moving over the holidays. But how can you make that happen in a practical and sustainable way? There are a few tricks and tips you can try.
Involve the kids
Most people will have younger children of some form in the gatherings, whether it be your own kids, a niece or nephew, or even the little ones of your friends. The best thing about children—other than their infectious joy—is that they are constantly active.
Use them as your inspiration and motivation to get moving. Whether it's building a snowman with them, or jumping on the playground even though it's chilly, every bit of movement counts. You'll also help make their Christmas a little bit more fun.
If you don't have children, consider volunteering your services to a local charity that works with children. Just an hour a week of playing with them could not only boost your movement, but also give back in the spirit of the season.
Make it part of the celebrations
There's no hard and fast rule that every single Christmas and New Year related gathering has to be directly related to alcohol and/or overly indulgent food. In fact, if you're a social person, you might just feel sick at the thought of yet another party.
So, why not mix things up, and incorporate in some seasonal movement instead? Organize for your work mates to go for a hike, or transform the first family gathering from a three-course lunch into an afternoon on the ice-skating rink.
The best thing is, the more intensive the exercise, the less likely that anyone can start an argument or ask you why you're still single!
Use it as alone time
If you're more of an introverted soul, exercise can actually be a very helpful tool during the overwhelming weeks of Christmas. When you've had just about all you can stand of being surrounded by people, use it as your moment of solitude.
This doesn't mean disappearing from a party or family gathering for hours at a time. It could be something as simple as a ten-minute walk around the block. By taking the time to move, breathe and get fresh air, you make it a lot easier on yourself.
After you return, you can walk back into the occasion feeling a lot calmer and able to cope.
Have fun with it
Repeat after me: exercise does not have to be boring. Exercise can actually be incredibly fun, if you choose to make it so. So, if you hate running with a passion, don't do it! Look for something more enjoyable instead.
Did you love sledding as a little one? Take it back up over the winter. Do you love shaking your body? Ask your local dance studio about a trial membership. Is the cold weather sinking into your bones? Try a hot yoga class to loosen up your muscles and warm you up.
What you consider fun could be very different to the next person's idea of fun. That's why it's important for you to find what works for you.
How to Keep the Balance
It's important to remember that although moving your body is important, so too is the holiday season. Some people might neglect or avoid occasions, citing their gym habit as an excuse.
Unless you are a professional athlete or body-builder, taking one or two sessions off from the gym isn't going to set you back. Instead of feeling guilty, just switch in a different type of movement instead, or go another day. Maintaining social connections is just as essential for well-being as exercise.
So, get out there and get moving, but make sure you enjoy yourself.