As you’ll notice in our upcoming book, I am a BIG believer in the power of regular exercise in improving practically every aspect of a person’s life. During the holiday season, it is especially important to not neglect your exercise regimen (or to initiate one if you currently don’t exercise). Although working out is important and relevant throughout the year, unique challenges arise during this time of the year that have the potential to ruin our health.
1. Overeating: As many of you are aware from previous holiday seasons, the constant barrage of fattening, calorically dense foods from family gatherings (e.g. Thanksgiving), office parties, etc. make it quite easy to gain weight. (I have had patients who gained 10 pounds in a little over a month.)
2. Depression and anxiety: For a variety of reasons, some people have a tendency towards becoming depressed and anxious during the holiday season.
3. More time indoors: Because it’s quite cold in many parts of the country (such as here in New York where I live), people tend to spend less time doing active things outside such as running around with the kids in the yard or park, taking walks, riding bicycles, and playing sports.
Exercise is an effective tool to counter all three of the above threats.
By exercising you can burn off calories from some of that extra food you indulged in (although I still recommend coming up with ways to avoid too much overeating – see the previous blog post.
Exercise is also a wonderful way to improve your mood. Many of you can attest to the mental high one gets after a good workout. (However, keep in mind that if you do suffer from depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, it’s important to involve a health care professional in your care as well.)
Coming up with creative ways to maintain physical activity despite the cold weather is important to offset the fact that you’re spending less active time outside. You can join a gym. You can play sports such as basketball, tennis, or racquetball indoors in many areas. You can go swimming indoors, workout at home, take up winter-type activities such as ice skating or cross country skiing, or you can simply bundle up and still enjoy a power walk outside despite the inclement weather.
Finally – and this is true for all times of year – doing exercise can help relieve a cigarette craving; even a set of some light intensity exercises may help you fight off an urge to smoke. If you’re trying to quit smoking or at least reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke, finding ways to incorporate exercise into your life is especially important.
(Also consult with a doctor about what exercises would be best for you in whatever state of health you’re in, and discuss any concerns such as weak joints, a bad back or high blood pressure.)