Colder temperatures, shorter daylight hours and food-oriented gatherings all signify the holidays are coming. That also means more complex and hectic schedules, which may make it tough to prioritize mental and physical health.
Sara Falk, RD, LDN, client engagement coordinator at Baptist Health’s Employer Wellness Solution, PATH (Personalized Approach to Health) – a partnership between Baptist Health and First Coast YMCA that provides customized solutions for employers to improve their employees’ health, productivity and well-being – said the first step toward maintaining your health through the holiday hustle is to plan ahead and set attainable goals.
Planning can be the difference between being prepared for any situation and feeling overwhelmed from minor inconveniences. Setting goals early is important because it provides you with a sense of direction, motivation, focus and clarity on the importance of the tasks you’ll have to tackle.
Falk recommended setting SMART goals:
“You don’t want to make too lofty of a goal during the holiday season because most people are traveling, have family in town, or are running around trying to prepare for the next big gathering,” said Falk. “You have to be realistic with yourself about what you can and cannot accomplish, given that you are being pulled in many different directions.”
It’s hard to imagine squeezing one more thing into your busy holiday schedule, but staying active during this season can be easier than you think. In fact, you may already be doing more for your mental and physical health than you realize.
It’s important to try to plan your workout schedule ahead of time so, if you need to change it, you’ve already made the commitment to engage in physical activity in some shape or form.
Here are ways to get some pep in your step this holiday season.
Work out with the family.
One way to incorporate exercise during the holidays is to plan activities and games that get the whole family moving. “It’s harder to break away and do your normal workout routine when family is in town, so exercising together would allow you to break a quick sweat and spend quality time together,” said Falk.
Pack portable equipment.
Some fitness equipment can fit right into your suitcase. Whether you’re staying in a hotel or guest room at the in-law’s place, make sure to pack your free weights, resistance bands, yoga mat and jump rope. And remember, some exercises don’t require any equipment at all. You can use your phone or tablet to follow workout channels and fitness bloggers who post tutorials to help you create your routines on the go. If you're staying with relatives, you can also try to find nearby gyms and see if you can use a guest pass or purchase one-day passes. Make sure to bring your fitness tracker to keep yourself accountable and monitor your progress.
Walk it out!
Using your legs to get around is a great way to explore a new place. If traveling to a city for the holidays, try to walk to your destinations instead of calling for a ride. Additionally, see if the place you’re staying has public bikes available for rent to cycle to around. Be sure to look up nearby park trails to run, walk or pedal. Other ways to strut and beat the holiday rut are to do extra laps at the mall, choose the stairs over the elevator, walk your pets around the neighborhood, and park far from the store entrance in the parking lot.
Hit the housework.
Another way to get in a quick sweat is to do yard work or clean the house before company arrives. Whether you’re shoveling snow from the driveway, raking leaves in the yard, or mopping a two-story house, you’re sure to break a sweat.
Navigating the holi-maze
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is important to remember things don’t always go as planned.
While exercise is proven to be great for stress relief, don’t let it be the be the reason for more tension in your life. Additionally, indulging in rich, holiday foods is OK – it’s part of the tradition and culture.
“When we’re thrown off our regular routine, we’re also thrown off our normal diets and exercise habits,” said Falk. “And that’s OK! You can always get back into it. Try not to worry about it too much.”
After the holidays pass and your schedule returns to normal, try to start working back to your regular routine. So go ahead and enjoy that triple-chocolate hot cocoa with extra marshmallows.
It’s important to keep up your health and avoid feeling overwhelmed during the holiday season. To help, Baptist Health has several Healthy Living Centers, offering wellness coaching and programs to the public. You can find a location near you here. For more details, call 904.202.4980