Monday, November 28, 2011

3 reasons to make physical activity a priority during the holidays

Commit to be fit this holiday season.  Photo credit: o5com via Flickr
Congratulations on surviving yet another post-Thanksgiving food coma.  If you are one of those people who finds it hard to get back on track with eating and physical activity after said food coma, then I challenge you to consider moving one thing to the top of your to-do list this holiday season.  That thing is physical activity.  I see physical activity as a gateway health habit.  When people let it slide to the bottom of their list of priorities, other habits tend to slide as well.  However, when people make physical activity a priority, not only do they stay on top of other health behaviors, but they also tend to score some fantastic deals in terms of their health and well-being, too!  Consider these three excellent reasons to commit to regular physical activity during the holidays.

Prevent holiday weight gain.  While holiday weight gain is common for many Americans, it is not necessarily inevitable.  Researchers have found that people who have successfully managed their weight long-term rarely deviate from their regular exercise routine throughout the year, including during the holidays.  Not only does exercise help stoke your body's metabolic furnace to burn more calories, but it also appears to help physically active people curb their food intake.

Manage stress.  Exercise is one of the best prescriptions for stress.  The holidays definitely present the opportunity for more stress from increasingly busy social calendars to additional responsibilities at work and more travel.  While you can't necessarily eliminate every source of stress in your life during the holidays, you certainly can include more ways to better manage it.  When you exercise, the body gets an amazing dose of natural feel-good chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins.  Exercise also allows you the opportunity to take a break from the stress in your life and just let it go. What once mattered before may not be as significant after a good workout.  

Boost energy levels.  With a fuller schedule and more stress, you may find that your energy levels may take a serious beating during the holidays.  While sipping more coffee or Red Bulls may seem like an easy way to to charge up your battery, it's not the ideal way to go to reduce the sluggishness.  I know that exercise may be one of the last things on your mind when it comes to feeling fatigued, but studies have suggested individuals that engage in regular physical activity tend to report higher energy levels and less fatigue than sedentary individuals.  So during those times when you just don't feel like it, do it any way.  Remind yourself of how great you'll feel afterwards.  Most of the time, the only workout you'll ever regret is the one that you don't do.

We're all gifted with 1440 minutes every single day.  Honor your body and honor your health by devoting at least 30 of those minutes to movement.  Believe me, your body WILL thank you for it.  What will you do to ramp up your physical activity during the holidays?     
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