Exercising during the holiday season

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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Well, the holidays are upon us. For many, that means getting together with family and friends, attending special events, and lots of delicious holiday fare. Some might think this isn’t the best time of the year to exercise, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many reasons it’s crucial to exercise during the holidays. Here are a few to keep in mind.

The holidays go hand and hand with culinary goodies. Whether it be Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas feast, folks usually pack on the calories this time of year. In fact, according to the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat from a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. Keeping your exercise regimen can not only help manage some of the fallout but can even check some of the guilt we feel from overindulging. Also, remember, exercise is not just about the number of calories burned while completing its movements, but rather the raising of your metabolism afterward, so you burn calories 24 hours a day. 

Most everyone has heard the old adage “use it, or lose it,” and that definitely applies to exercise. One study from the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine found that even a two-week break from exercise in research subjects led to a notable loss of strength and muscle mass. 

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When adding in financial burdens, travel, cooking, cleaning, and visiting family, holiday stress can pile up quickly. While burning those holiday calories is all well and good, the goal of real importance regarding exercise, especially this time of year, is emotional and mental well-being. Proper exercise facilitates the release of endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain that help protect you against the negative effects of stress. 

Exercise also gives your schedule structure. Building habits is based on repetition, but the holidays can wreak havoc with your schedule. Continuing your exercise regimen during the holidays can help you maintain a familiar and comfortable schedule. It can take a little planning, but it will be well worth it. Even if one understands the benefits of exercise, it’s so tempting during the holidays to just anchor down on that sofa. If that’s you, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, folks in the United States are much more likely to report idle physical behavior during the holidays. Don’t let inactivity become a habit. Get up and exercise. 

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like more energy, especially during the holidays. Proper exercise spurs cells in the muscles to produce more mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles (little organs within cells) that produce energy, which creates more fuel for the body. Also, working out causes more oxygen to circulate throughout the body, which helps it utilize energy more efficiently and function better, overall.

Another benefit of regular exercise is that it helps alleviate depression. Sometimes the holidays aren’t particularly joyful. For those who’ve lost loved ones, or for those already struggling with loneliness, the holidays can be downright painful. Also, all that extra darkness this time of year can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects nearly 10 million Americans. Exercising during the holidays can help alleviate some of the negative feelings. Also, regular exercise helps ease depression and anxiety, by releasing endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being.       

Remember, there are 168 hours in each week, and you only need to commit to about three hours of vigorous exercise to get and stay in shape. That’s less than 2 percent of your weekly time. Being more physically active during the holidays will make it so much easier to reach your fitness goals in the new year.

       David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at cwcrocker77@gmail.com or text to 864-494-6215.