How to Stay Active During the Holidays

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Medically reviewed in March 2022

The holidays can be stressful—and it’s easy to overindulge in holiday treats—so regular exercise, along with your relaxation techniques, is especially important to keep you feeling healthy and balanced during the holidays.

Taking off a day or two isn’t a problem, but interrupting your pattern for weeks or months will set you back. Over the years, I’ve discovered eight strategies to keep my clients on track during the holiday bustle.

1. Exercise Early
I don’t mean at the crack of dawn. In fact, if you have heart disease or diabetes, jumping out of bed and into your workout may be taking an unnecessary risk. I absolutely encourage everyone to make exercise a priority early in the day; you’ll be more energetic as the hours add up and are less likely to be derailed by schedule changes.

2. Keep An Exercise Log
Log your activities and the timing. As you take those notes, you’ll bolster your commitment and you can look back on your log later with satisfaction. Like a coach, the log can also show you when you’re being less diligent.

3. Plan Back-up Options
During the holidays, our days tend to include some surprises—like unexpected holiday cookies at the office or trips to the mall for another gift. Whenever you can’t stick to your exercise program, think about a Plan B. It might be a half hour with an exercise ball and resistance bands at home or a brisk walk outdoors after dinner.

4. Don’t Demand Perfection
So, your squash buddy cancels, you get stuck at the office and never make it to the gym. Go for that after-dinner walk and give yourself full credit instead of bathing in self-criticism.

5. Schedule a Goal in January or February That Requires Training
Let’s say you plan on taking a ski trip or running your first half marathon. Decide to build up your stamina in advance and schedule your training.

6. Find An Exercise Buddy for the Holiday Season
Even if you usually go it alone, now is the time to team up. The promise to meet someone will help you show up and the company may improve your workout.

7. Schedule Training Sessions
Many people say to trainers, “I’ll see you after New Year’s.” Instead, if your schedule is tight, plan on meeting at least twice a month. Just two sessions in December have kept my clients on track for the entire holiday season. If you’re thinking about starting training sessions in January, start in November instead.

8. Go Outdoors in Cold Weather
As the temperature drops, it’s tempting to workout indoors or simply become sedentary. Some people think you have to be extremely fit to exercise in the cold. Actually, as long as you keep moving and dress appropriately, your body will warm up. Those with heart disease or heart issues should ask their healthcare provider for guidance.

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