Research shows that in about a month, some 45 percent of American adults will make New Year’s resolutions such as getting fit and eating better – and many will make that pledge with guilt after doing too little exercise and too much eating over the holidays.
And while we welcome Santa’s presence at our holiday celebrations, few of us would say we admire Santa’s physique. So we have to stay active and be mindful of what we eat during the holidays to avoid packing on unwanted pounds.
Following are five simple tips to stay healthy and fit during the holiday season based on information from the book Back in the Saddle to Fit: 10 Steps to Reclaiming Athletic Fitness for the Busy Professional.
- Get a jumpstart on New Year’s fitness goals by starting now. Binge eating or doing nothing is less likely to settle in if you’re already working toward your New Year’s goals. Research shows that it takes about 60 days for an activity to become a habit, so by Jan. 1, you’ll already be several weeks toward your goal.
- Begin brisk walking for at least 30 minutes, five times a week for the next 30 days, and add two to three 30-minute sessions per week of resistance strength training that challenges all the major muscle groups. This can be achieved at home through push-ups, non-weighted lunges, etc. A moderate exercise plan over the holidays reduces the mental stress of doing nothing.
- Reduce sugary drink consumption by 50 percent for the next 30 days – and even more into the New Year. A 12-ounce can of soda contains 16 sugar cubes and “empty calories,” a precursor for obesity, particularly in non-active youth. Holiday treats like eggnog can contain up to 20 grams of fat per serving, almost as much as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese (26 grams).
- Be mindful of the ways the big three nutritional saboteurs – excessive sugar, fat and salt – enter the diet during the holidays from eggnog, snacks or desserts. Watch alcohol consumption, which has 7 calories for every gram. Also, be mindful of gifting high-fat, high-sugar snacks like buttery popcorn tins and chocolates, especially for people who are trying to control their weight or have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Consider gifts that encourage friends and family to get moving, placing less focus on electronics, which can lead to sedentary activity. Big-box retailers and sporting goods stores now carry low-cost equipment like mats, kettlebells, dumbbells, exercise bands, and exercise and stability balls. Video enthusiasts can purchase games that encourage movement, such as sports simulation or dance. Purchase gifts that get youth moving outdoors, like bikes, skates or sports equipment. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the average American spends about three hours watching television but less than 20 minutes exercising. Kids spend more than seven hours with electronic entertainment like cell phones, computers, TV, movies or texting.
Regarding physical activity, December is the time that we have to avoid "conversational inertia" – too much talking about what we will do without taking practical action to do it. It’s also the time to start "eating like an adult," which means that we don’t have to stop enjoying food, we simply have to be mindful of what we eat. If we're able to to that, with a little activity mixed in, we'll be able to enjoy Santa without looking like his jolly twin.