Some call this time of year “the season of giving”. We open ourselves up to those around us. We open our wallets to the less fortunate and our homes to family members and the delicious goodies they bring. While moderation is recommended in consuming these treats, it can be particularly difficult at this time of year. If you are not the type to forego the whipped topping on the pumpkin pie, fear not! There are still some things you can do for your health that don’t involve putting that cookie back (although, depending on how many cookies you’ve already had, you may want to still consider it).
Life is about balance. If you do not balance what you eat with what you do, you will inevitably put on a few extra pounds during the holidays. As we will all increase the amount of food we take in, we must all be mindful of the exercise we put out. Don’t add extra stress to the holidays by counting calories. You really don’t want to know how many are in your sister’s homemade stuffing. Be practical.
As you approach family meal times, start to increase your activity level. Taking a 20 minute walk every day or a 30 minute walk 5 days a week are the recommended physical activity guidelines for a healthy heart according to the American Heart Association. This lowers your blood pressure, increases your heart rate, improves your circulation, and helps prevent you from turning into a lump on the couch once you’re full of challah.
Of course I’m not going to tell you that 2 weeks worth of walking will absolve you of a 3,000 calorie meal, but any amount of activity is better than none. It can be as simple as taking the stairs versus the elevator or standing instead of sitting. This is particularly important for people traveling long distances for the holidays. If you sit for multiple hours a day, whether it’s in an airplane seat or at a desk, you increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a few easy guidelines for preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), one of the more dangerous cardiovascular disorders. If you find yourself stuck in one place for multiple hours at a time, do this:
- Raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor
- Raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor
- Tighten and release your leg muscles
If you notice any swelling, pain, or tenderness in a limb (typically a leg) after sitting for a long period of time or while performing the above exercises, it is important to remain still and seated, if possible, and contact a doctor to diagnose a potential condition.
It doesn’t take much to prevent the holidays from weighing you down. A little effort now can prevent a multitude of health issues in the future. You may not be spurred into a full exercise and health regimen by it, but every little bit helps. I recommended taking it like life- one step at a time.