If the weather cooperates and your neighborhood is safe, you could take a walk with your family instead of watching TV. Checking out the Christmas decorations while being physically active could be fun for the whole family.
During the holiday season, routines often go out the window. Diet? Blown amidst the influx of holiday cookies and decadent holiday party buffets. Sleep? Pass the coffee, please. Exercise? Who has time?
These changes to your usual heart-healthy routine, though temporary, can take a toll on your heart. While skipping the gym for a week isn’t likely to cause a heart attack, research suggests it might be especially important to be nice to your heart over the holidays. In fact, the three days with the highest number of fatal heart attacks are Christmas, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Researchers aren’t sure why this is the case, though everything from stress to cold weather or delaying seeking treatment have been hypothesized.
For most people, the trick to keeping moving during the holidays and squeezing in some exercise, even when all routines are off, is to be creative.
Try these Five Tips:
- Use shopping to your advantage. Shopping can be your exercise. Instead of dealing with the hassle of finding a parking space close to the shopping center, park farther away and walk. If the shopping center has an escalator and stairs, choose the stairs for an extra activity boost. Or invite a friend or relative to shop with you and commit to a walk around the shopping center before you begin looking for holiday gifts.
- When you visit loved ones, get out and explore. If you are traveling during the holiday season or even visiting family and friends close by, invite others at the gathering to join you in a walk around the neighborhood after a meal, as long as the weather isn’t too cold or the walkways slippery. If your hosts go with you, they can point out features of the neighborhood, or you and any walking companions can use the time to catch up since you last saw each other. But keep up your pace. To get the most out of a walk it should be brisk enough that you can talk but not a leisurely stroll.
- Celebrate the season in your community. If the weather cooperates, find outdoor light displays, tree lightings, or New Year’s Eve countdowns that will get you outside and walking. If you celebrate Christmas, and this is a safe level of activity for you, buy and cut a tree at a farm. Look for events in your community, such as caroling or a food drive that could use another set of hands.
- Pass on your screen time instead of your workout. Recent research suggests that one of the worst things you can do for your cardiovascular and overall health is to be sedentary. If you have to give up something to meet your holiday commitments, skip time spent watching television or surfing the Internet instead of exercise. Sure, if you have a tradition of viewing a favorite holiday program, watch it, but consider postponing the rest of your viewing until after the holidays.
- Don’t forget to count what you are already doing. Did you vacuum the entire house before guests arrived? That’s certainly exercise. Did you spend an afternoon stringing lights outside? That’s physical activity, too. Think about the extra work you put in over the holidays, from hours on your feet cooking to bringing down boxes of decorations from the attic. When you ask yourself if you are getting enough exercise over the holiday season, don’t forget to consider these activities.
With that in mind, try not to be too hard on yourself. Any physical activity is better than none at all. All those steps you take to run seasonal errands might not take place in a gym, but they count too.
From the team at SecondsCount, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.