Jenilee Matz has a master’s degree in public health and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a health communications specialist. She writes for several health publications including Everyday Health, HealthDay, and Diabetic Connect.
The holidays are filled with joy, festive cheer, and warm smiles. But there’s one thing most of us are short on during this busy season: time.
With packed schedules and to-do lists a mile long, it can be easy to let healthy habits fall by the wayside. For instance, you may be tempted to just wait until the new year to start your fitness program again.
However, the holidays are a time when you need to exercise most. Not only does a workout reduce stress and anxiety levels, but it can also boost your energy and help keep your weight in check.
Here are five ways to make time for fitness during the holiday season:
1. Set realistic goals. Now is not the best time to set out to achieve a big fitness goal. In fact, it may be better to scale back. If you regularly walk for an hour each morning, cut back to 30-minute workouts until January. Even if you can’t carve out an entire half hour from your schedule for fitness, remember some physical activity is better than none at all. As long as you’re active for 10 continuous minutes, it counts as exercise.
2. Plan ahead. With proper planning, workouts can fit into hectic schedules. Traveling to visit family? Pack your fitness gear and search for local jogging paths, ask a family member if you could get a guest pass to their gym, or download a few exercise videos to your tablet or phone. Or if you know you’ll be working late through the holidays and won’t have time to work out after work, wake up a half hour earlier and hit the gym in the morning instead.
3. Be flexible. Commitments, such as an impromptu, after-work happy hour, will pop up, and planned workouts will be missed during this time of year. This is okay. A few missed exercise sessions are not going to matter in the long run. Don’t see this as a reason to abandon your fitness routine for good. Rather, fit in fitness when you can—maybe you don’t have time for a three-mile run today, but you can find 10 minutes to do a quick circuit of lunges, jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups.
4. Multitask. Have a lot of shopping to do? Leave the car behind and walk between stores or literally "run" your errands if you live in a pedestrian-friendly area. If you’ll be busy cooking all day, crank up the festive tunes and dance while you chop, sauté, and mix.
5. Create new traditions. Most holiday memories center on food, but now is the perfect time to create active family traditions. Take the kids ice skating or sign the whole family up for a local “turkey trot” or “jingle jog” race. Many holiday races are open to runners and walkers and feature special kids’ race options.
How will you fit in fitness during the holidays this year?