The last thing on your mind after Thanksgiving dinner is doing something active. That feeling just kind of sticks around for the remainder of the year; add to that the kind of weather that doesn't welcome many outdoor activities and seeing relatives and friends that you haven't laid eyes on in a year, and you've got the perfect recipe for a sedentary holiday season. But there are countless benefits to staying active during the most wonderful time of the year. Not only do you stave off excess weight gain (they say Americans on average gain 5-7 pounds during the holidays), but you also boost your immune system, improve your cardiovascular abilities, strengthen your bones, improve your mood, and regulate hormones.
There's a misconception that you have to spend hours and hours at the gym to get fit, but the truth is you don't need much at all—just commitment and a pair of sneakers. I tell my weight-loss clients all the time that people are most successful when they start with realistic goals and build from there. This is the kind of mindset that helps anyone get through the holiday season feeling their best and staving off excess weight gain. The main goal during the holidays shouldn't be to drop a dress size or accomplish something significant in the gym. You should just aim to stay active and move around as often as possible—so that you can enjoy the season and your loved ones as much as possible.
Here are a few tips to help you stay active and fit during the holidays, even if you're a total beginner to the game.
1. Go for a Walk Every Day
The simplest physical activity you can do on a regular basis to improve your overall health is walk. Make a commitment to take a walk every day during the holiday season, ideally outside, but if you must use a treadmill, that's perfectly acceptable. Just taking a hearty walk every day can help you maintain your fitness levels during Thanksgiving and Christmas; if you don't want to take a long walk all at once, you can break it up a few times throughout the day, such as 15 minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The simplest physical activity you can do on a regular basis to improve your overall health is walk.
Walking is an easy activity you can do with the whole family, making it even easier to do during the holidays. Ask your friends, family members, kids or nieces and nephews to join you. Even better, take them all on a simple hike or walk around the neighborhood. This ritual isn't only good for everyone physically, but it's a nice way to spend quality time without relying on alcohol, TV, etc. Be the person in your family who gets everyone off the couch at least once a day, even if it's for a 10-minute stroll outside.
2. Spend More Time in the Sun
It's not exactly the most ideal time of the year for everyone to hang out outside, but it's still important to collect daily sun exposure during the winter in order to regulate your sleep/wake cycle and hormones. Getting the necessary sun exposure also helps to improve your mood, boost your immune system, and aid in many metabolic functions. If you take two daily walks outside during the day, you'll kill multiple birds with one stone. The easiest way to achieve that is by taking a short walk after breakfast in the morning and another walk in the late afternoon before dinner.
Getting the necessary sun exposure also helps to improve your mood and boost your immune system.
The sun actually plays an important role in your body's metabolic functions. You're more likely to burn fat and build muscle if you're spending enough time in direct sunlight, so if you continuously spend time outdoors during the holidays, you'll be much less likely to gain excess weight. Plus, you'll be in such a good mood from soaking up all that sunlight that you won't have any problem enjoying time with your in-laws.
3. Plan a Fun Physical Activity for Your Whole Family
It's much easier to stay active yourself when you've got everyone around you doing the same thing. You may have to be the person that coordinates it, though. Everyone wants to lounge around and stay inside, and it might be hard to convince them to get off the couch, but planning a physical activity with your family is one of the best ways to spend time together during the holidays. Play a round of pickleball, go for a hike, or just do a nice long walk downtown before you head to dinner. The more you can rake up those daily steps, the less of a sedentary hole you'll fall into.
Take a stroll after a big meal like Thanksgiving dinner.
4. Move Your Body After a Big Meal
If you've been following the advice of the last four tips, you're well accustomed to walking and being outside on a daily basis. Another way to use walking to your advantage is to take a stroll after a big meal, like Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas brunch. After you've wrapped up a delicious, rich meal (and you probably went back for seconds), it's helpful to your digestion and recovery to go for a walk, even if it's for 15 minutes. This is another good ritual you can start doing with your family after the pie is finished. You'll snap everyone out of their food comas and help them digest their meal better. Besides, a second piece of pumpkin pie hits different after a 30-minute walk in the cold.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family, so don't feel like you have to obsess over your physique or fitness regimen. Go for a walk whenever you can, eat reasonable portions, and spend quality time with your loved ones.