• Holidays Stress You Out?  Try Exercise to Relieve the Pressure

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    The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, but what about holiday stress (sometimes brought on by family stress). And when the pressure’s on to get so much done on top of your usual responsibilities, it’s tempting to let your exercise routine slide. Resist that temptation! Dropping your exercise routine could be one of the biggest mistakes of the season.

    Coping During Holidays: Why? Because exercise is often recommended to reduce stress. Exercise has been shown to help lower blood pressure, release hormones called endorphins that contribute to happiness, and provide an outlet for relieving tension and taking your mind off your problems. In addition to reducing stress, these can be great benefits for your heart health. Need more reasons to stick to your exercise regimen? Check out SecondsCount’s Top 10 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity.

    Exercise and Stress: Try these practical tips to help you squeeze a little stress-busting physical activity in between shopping, wrapping presents, and attending all the end-of-year festivities:

    • Even if it’s last-minute shopping, take the first 30 minutes of your shopping trip to walk a lap or two around the mall at more than window-shopping speed. This will get in your 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise and give you time to get the lay of the land at the mall.
    • Whenever you have the option, take the stairs at the store rather than escalators or elevators. Carrying all those presents up the stairs will give you a workout.
    • If the weather’s good, take a walk and enjoy the Christmas lights. Set a brisk pace to get the cardiovascular benefits, and don’t stop too much to ooh and ahh.
    • Be a kid again, or at least go play outside and play with them. Did Santa bring your kids or grandkids new bikes, rollerblades, or skateboards? Break out your bike and join them, or just walk along. It’s great family time, and much better for your heart than video games and other screen time.
    • Got returns? Pass up that primo parking spot in favor of one that makes you walk a bit before you join the crowds looking for great sales.
    • Don’t be a humbug at the holiday party; get up and jitterbug! Dancing can be a good aerobic activity, and it burns more calories than sitting in the corner sipping eggnog. Dancing may reduce stress? Who knew?
    • Get a jump on your New Year’s resolution. If your goal for 2012 is focused on fitness, start easing into it over the holidays. For example, you might be planning to join a gym, dust off (and use!) your treadmill again, or take a walk with a friend each morning. Whatever your goal, if you get started now, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy new habit before the New Year’s ball even drops.

    For suggestions on coping with stress all year ’round, visit SecondsCount’s Guide to Stress Management.