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How can exercise help relieve holiday stress?

Regular exercise has been shown in numerous studies to be as effective as or more effective than antidepressants and therapy in improving mild to moderate depression. Regular exercise can be as little as 20 to 30 minutes per day of increased physical activity.

Exercise has been shown to decrease resting heart rate, reduce blood pressure and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, all of which help to decrease the physiological causes of stress in the body. Exercise has also been shown to release endorphins and catecholamines, which are “feel good” hormones that also reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. 
The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, but they can also be stressful. You may find yourself wondering how you will have time to get everything done - shopping, planning holiday parties, attending parties - on top of your daily responsibilities. And you may find yourself negotiating demands of family and friends.
But dropping your exercise routine because you think you don’t have time could be one of the biggest mistakes of the season. Exercise is often recommended to reduce stress. That’s because it helps lower blood pressure, releases hormones that contribute to happiness (called endorphins), and provides an outlet for relieving tension and taking your mind off your problems. Reducing your stress and keeping your blood pressure under control won’t just keep you calm amidst so much to do; it also benefits your heart health.
John Berkowitz
Social Work
The holidays mean hectic schedules, holiday parties and lots of unhealthy food for many people. Staying on track with your exercise program becomes more of a challenge with all of the social commitments. Take time to plan your strategy for exercising during the holidays so you don't get completely derailed from your efforts. Exercising may help reduce your holiday stress and keep your weight in check when surrounded by lots of holiday treats. Reset Your Exercise Goals Adjusting your daily exercise goals for the holiday season keeps you active while avoiding disappointment if you don't exercise as much as usual.
The American Council on Exercise recommends aiming for shorter exercise sessions each day. If you normally work out for an hour each day, scale it back to 20 minutes. Your adjusted holiday exercise goals are more attainable, making them easier to fit into a busy holiday schedule. You may end up working out for your usual hour on most days, but you have less pressure, allowing you to enjoy the holidays.
Exercise Together For most people, the holidays include spending time with family and friends. You may visit friends and family who you only see a few times a year. To maximize your time with them, exercise together. Go for a walk or cross country skiing. You can fit in physical activity while bonding with your exercise partner. Organize an Active Gathering The American Council on Exercise recommends modifying your idea of a holiday gathering. Instead of focusing on food, plan an active holiday gathering for your family or friends. Meet up at a local sledding hill or ice skating rink before enjoying a light, healthy meal together. The active holiday party allows you to work in your daily exercise without giving up time with your family and friends. It also makes your holiday event stand out as something different than the usual food-centered parties.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.