How to stay fit and healthy during the holiday season can be a real challenge. Weight can creep up over the holidays—and, unlike visiting relatives, may never leave. According to our fourth annual holiday survey, Americans expect to gain 8 pounds at the end of this season, and 64 percent of them are actively planning to delay healthy attempts until the New Year. This is a 9 percent increase compared to 2020 and a 23 percent increase from 2019.
This might be due in part to the stress of the past year and a half: 65% feel like they “deserve” treats this year, more so than in other years, because of the pandemic and the added stress.
However, there are strategies to avoid stress-eating, and while indulging in a treat or two is okay, holiday meals don’t have to destroy your healthy lifestyle.
Since nutrition, mental health, and exercise all play a role in our overall well-being, it’s important to keep fitness in mind even during the holidays.
How to Stay Fit and Motivated During the Holidays
Of course, it’s not easy to pass up all the holiday cheer, but exercise and mindful eating can help you stay lean and healthy and avoid gaining weight. Here are my favorite tools and tricks to keep me on track with my fitness goals during the holidays:
- Get creative.
Use items at home to add additional weighted resistance to your routines. For example, books in a backpack serve as a great practical way to add weight to your squats. Water-filled laundry detergent containers work really well as a substitute for a kettlebell, and a towel on a hard surface works well in place of sliding disks. Adding weight to your routine helps you build lean muscle, which is great for a toned look and good for boosting your metabolism.
- Track your progress for motivation.
Consider getting a tracking device for the holidays. Having the ability to monitor your daily, weekly, or monthly activity levels makes it easier to accomplish your goals. A low-cost item like a pedometer can be effective, and of course, there are the more technical options that cost a little more – like Garmin, Fit Bits, and Apple Watches – that allow you to add in an element of competition with your family and friends.
- Boost your angles.
Changing the angle of an exercise can help to place additional stress on targeted muscles. As an example, performing a push-up with your feet elevated places more stress on the chest muscles. The same is true for making exercises easier for beginners: doing a push-up using a table or placing hands on a wall to keep the feet below the chest will reduce the gravity and make an exercise easier.
- Try Free, Online Workouts.
Performing exercise in combination with balanced nutrition will improve your overall sense of well-being, improve your body composition, and positively impact your body confidence. Free workouts available online provide the flexibility to fit in fitness when it is most convenient, including during the busy holiday season.
- Listen to new music.
There’s nothing quite like fun, new music to give you that boost to get off the couch, run that extra mile, or push through a heavy lifting session. Download new tunes, trade playlists with a friend, or reshuffle your existing library to keep your workouts interesting. Even mix it up with your favorite holiday tunes.
- Try mini stretch bands.
Inexpensive mini stretch bands, which come in various resistance levels, can be your best buddy for warming up hips, glutes, shoulders, and back, or use them for a fast and effective resistance routine.
- Get new running shoes.
Poor weather conditions can make the ground slippery, so having running shoes with good tread at this time of the year is important. Look for new models during the holidays, and take advantage of all those holiday sales.
- Run with reflective clothing.
Winter nights come early and get cold. When you invest in warm running gear with reflective panels or strips, you’ll be safer and warmer during your outdoor workout.
- Jump rope.
Jumping rope is a good old-fashioned way to warm up and get your heart rate going. Warming up for 10 minutes can also help prevent injury. You can use an interval-style training method and use your jump rope for your entire routine.
- Control hunger with protein snacks.
Aside from practicing mindful eating, consuming a healthy protein-rich snack before attending holiday parties will help you to feel full, curb unnecessary party snacking, and give you a little energy boost.
Every little bit you do to stay fit and healthy and focused on your fitness before and during the holidays will help you afterward. Consider each good choice you make as a gift to your future self.