“Have a Healthy Holiday” – 7 Tips for Staying Fit During the Holidays

holiday fitness

The holidays can make anyone gain a bit of winter weight. With all the family dinners, company parties, and rum-laced eggnogs, it can be challenging to stick to your regular diet and exercise plan.  On top of that, the chilly weather can make you want to stay indoors under a quilt for the season. Use these seven simple holiday fitness tips to keep trim for every holiday event:

1. Dislike exercising to begin with? Try a fitness alternative. The gym doesn’t work for everyone, but there are other ways to get moving. Try a Zumba class at your local community center. Zumba is a mixture of aerobics and dance that is choreographed to incorporate a variety of moves from different dance styles, which means that you might even walk away with a few new moves for that New Years Eve party. And of course, you can’t beat a great yoga class. It calms your mental and spiritual state of mind, all while building your strength and flexibility.

Yoga is also a natural way to control your hunger pangs, which is perfect for the holidays. Try this pose: Start by sitting on your mat with your knees bent. Slowly lift your feet off the ground while trying to remain balanced. Keep your spine straight and extend your legs as much as possible without breaking your posture. Hold this position for five breaths.

2. Get into the holiday spirit. Pull on that toque, button up that parka, and head outside for some old-fashioned holiday enjoyment. A great way to get your heart rate up is to grab a buddy and pick out a Christmas tree at a nearby tree farm. Between trudging through the snow, chopping it down, and lugging it back home, you’ll be sure to burn more calories than you even expected.

For something less arduous, take a stroll around your neighborhood at night and admire all of the houses decorated and lit up for the holiday season. If you’re pressed for time and still have lots of gifts to buy, try avoiding the mall and head downtown to shop.  By sticking to street shopping, you’ll have to walk further between stores and that irresistible food court scent won’t be calling you the entire time. Plus, who wants to deal with a crowded mall when you can enjoy the outdoors?

3. Do good to feel good. Since it’s the time of year to be generous, donate a bit of your time to a local charity that could use an extra set of hands. Food banks are working overtime during the holidays, so consider volunteering to pack and sort boxes of food. All that heavy lifting is great for toning your upper body and keeping your metabolism up. If you’re looking for reasons to get outside, volunteering to walk a dog at your local shelter is a great way to keep fit. To get an even better workout, request a dog that has a high energy level that will motivate you to keep up. Who knows — you might even end up adopting your new running buddy.

holiday fitness4. Don’t neglect your regular fitness. If you exercise at the gym on a regular basis, then you’re already on the right track for keeping up with your holiday fitness. Remember though, the key to good fitness is consistency. To get the most out of your workout, try doing high-intensity exercises that burn the highest amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. Experiment with new exercises, but be sure to learn the correct technique, otherwise you could strain yourself. If you do regular push-ups, switch it up and try them with your hands staggered. Place your left hand about a hand’s width wider and further up than a standard push up position. Keep your right hand where you normally would have it, under your shoulder. Lower yourself while keeping your right elbow close to your side. Do 15 reps and then swap hands.  You’ll end up working out your triceps in a new way, which will cause your body to burn more calories. For your legs, do squats, lunges, and body presses with at least a 20 lb dumbbell and complete 15 reps of each. This not only shortens your workout time, but it also exercises your muscles more intensely. Make sure to rest for two minutes between each set and repeat it at least twice.

5. Create a workout you can do anywhere. Whether you’re at your parents’ house or your great aunt’s, having a workout that you can do anywhere will increase the likelihood that you’ll actually exercise. For example, tricep dips can be done using a staircase. Begin by sitting on the edge of a step with your palms pressed down. Place your legs straight in front of you. Bend your elbows to lower your body, making sure not to go lower than 90 degrees before pushing back up. Do at least 15 reps and repeat the exercise twice. After that, do a plank for one minute, while pretending you’re giving someone in front of you a high-five. To strengthen your legs, do walking lunges around the house. You can also do these while vacuuming or dusting if you’re short on time to exercise.

6. Embrace the frigid temperature. Remember, you are not a bear, so there is no reason to go into hibernation mode.  Use that extra foot of snow to your advantage and make the most of the winter weather. Outdoor activities like building snowmen, making snow angels, and going tobogganing require a surprising amount of energy. Whether you’re rolling massive snowballs across your lawn or dragging your sled up a hill repeatedly, moving through the snow is an effective way to burn calories without having to hit the gym. Challenge your neighbors to a snowball fight – the losing team has to make a pot of organic hot cocoa (which is full of antioxidants, by the way). If you don’t have any snow where you are, setting up outdoor decorations and Christmas lights will give you a good workout as well. Stretch out your muscles while simultaneously astounding bypassers with your creative outdoor display.

7.    And lastly, don’t beat yourself up! It is the holidays after all. ‘Tis the season to cheat on your diet – just try not to overdo it. Limit your selection of treats to the really special holiday ones, and after your glass of bubbly or winter ale, remember to rehydrate yourself. Try to eat smaller meals or some low-calorie snacks throughout the day instead of skipping them and opting for one gigantic feast at dinnertime. This helps maintain your body’s metabolism throughout the day and stops you from overeating. One of the best tricks to stop yourself from bingeing at the dinner table is to eat slowly. It takes about 15-20 minutes after you’ve eaten for your brain to tell your stomach it’s actually full, so slow down and enjoy those delicious bites.

Always remember that any sort of movement is better than sitting on the couch watching the Yule log. An active heart is a happy heart.

by Lynda Tierney and Carolyn Lee

This series on living fantastic for the holiday season is a collaboration between Greenster and the students of the Langara Publishing Program, who as a team produce Pacific Rim Magazine. Enjoy! 

Photo Credit: Helga Weber, Chris Bodine
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