7 Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays
By Kate Rockwood
Cookie swaps, crowded calendars, and decadent family feasts make the holidays festive—but they can also wreak havoc on your healthy lifestyle goals. But before you hang up your sneakers til the New Year rolls around, know that it is possible to stay fit in the season of excess (without channeling your inner Uncle Scrooge). Here’s how:
Yes, food is everywhere this time of year, but you want to nosh on treats when they’re truly scrumptious—not just because you ran out of fuel while walking past the Cinnabon cart at the mall. Whether gearing up for an epic afternoon of present-shopping or volunteering, stash some good-for-you snacks in your bag. Look for options with protein, which takes longer to digest than simple carbs and will keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Drawing a blank? Check out these dozen-plus portable options.
Between social events and holiday travel, it’s easy to see why regular workouts get put on the back burner. But exercising during the holidays can help “relieve holiday stress, weight gain and reduce cancer-related risks,” according to the National Foundation for Cancer Research. That’s motivating! Can’t fit in a full 45-hour spin class? Try aiming for 15 minutes of cardio instead (that’s certainly better than nothing at all!). Try jumping rope, speed-walking around the block (or mall), or taking a few laps up and down the stairs.
Catch some ZZZs
Don’t let all the gift-wrapping cut into your quality sleep—the consequences could come back to bite. A study in BMC Public Health found that irregular bedtimes can result in poor sleep quality, which has been linked to overeating, a temptation you definitely don’t want stacked against you when surrounded by holiday treats. Despite your busy schedule, try to stick to your regular bedtime during the holidays. Struggling to hit the hay at your usual time? Set a recurring alarm on your phone for a night-time nudge.
Count your drinks
The holidays are cause for celebration, but don’t let yourself get carried away sipping too much eggnog during your back-to-back holiday parties. Though holiday staples like hot toddies and mulled wine can be tasty, they also pack a sneakily high calorie and sugar punch. A study in Nature also found that drinking alcohol can cause overeating, increasing your chances of camping out by the snack table. Keep the drinks from adding up by alternating each one with a glass of water. Your hangover-free body will thank you in the morning.
Beat the flu
The holiday season happens to coincide with prime time for a major communicable disease—influenza, commonly known as the flu. The virus won’t just take you out of commission for days; it can also throw your healthy routines for a serious loop. The CDC recommends getting your annual flu shot to avoid seasonal sickness. Also, take care to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizer after shaking hands at a holiday party or spending time in public spaces (think: shopping malls and airports).
Holiday buffets can lead to a classic case of your eyes being too big for your stomach. Put some thought into this year’s meal by surveying all the options before loading a plate, and then only grab what you really like, says Pat Skerrett in Harvard Health. After finishing your first helping, fight the urge to jump back in line for seconds. “It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s ‘I’m getting full’ signal to get to your brain,” Skerrett says. “After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full or want only a small portion of seconds.”
Plan a post-meal activity
Staying active over the holidays can be hard, especially when big holiday meals make it tempting to veg on the couch. Beat this urge by suggesting a family activity, such as a walk around the neighborhood, right after dinner. A study in the International Journal of General Medicine found that walking immediately after eating can even help with weight loss.
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