December means deadlines for end-of-the-year projects, colder weather, less sunlight, and holiday preparations and travel.
Frequently, exercise goes by the wayside.
Here’s a message from Carle Health fitness professionals: Even when you don’t have time for your full workout, a little bit of movement will go a long way to counter the physical and emotional stress of the season of goodwill.
Fitness centers are quieter from Thanksgiving to the New Year, with holiday preparations, travel and cold weather.
Some people take a fitness break during the holiday season, Jessica Barrack-Brooks, licensed athletic trainer (LAT), athletic trainer certified (ATC) with Carle Sports Medicine, Champaign, said.
“People definitely let their fitness take a back seat to everything else that goes on during the holidays,” Dena Albers, ATC, fitness and wellness manager, Carle Health & Fitness Center, Bloomington, said.
But exercise can help cope with the added stress of the holiday season and ease the guilt that can sometimes come with overindulging.
“When people overindulge over the holidays and are eating and drinking more than they normally do, it can be detrimental to their overall health,” Albers said. “Physically, they can feel bloated and sluggish. Often times, overindulging can affect people mentally as well - brain fog, depression, increased stress level.”
Going for a walk after eating a large meal can help maintain energy levels and regulate blood sugar. We should enjoy our favorite holiday foods. Keeping up an exercise routine allows people to, within reason, enjoy their holiday favorites without the weight gain.
Everyone needs a day off now and then. But taking a month off isn’t recommended, especially not during the holidays.
Continuing a fitness routine during December is easier than getting back to exercise in January if you’ve been off for a month, Barrack-Brooks said.
“I try to remind people that if they maintain their fitness routine through the holidays, they will be less likely to experience the holiday hangover,” Albers said. “The holiday hangover is when people get back on track Jan. 2 and find it extremely hard. I tell people ‘Your body will more than likely go through detox from all the sugary foods that they do not normally consume the rest of the year. It’s not a fun process for some people to go through.”
When we exercise, we aid digestion and reduce gastrointestinal distress, we burn calories, we get an energy boost, we strengthen our immune system, we sleep better and we increase our body’s production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. All that means we’re going to be more patient with ourselves, our kids and others, and we’re better equipped for holiday stress and seasonal-affected disorder from less sunlight, Barrack-Brooks said.
“When I exercise, I feel better and I have more energy,” Stephen Hill, MD, a family medicine physician with Carle BroMenn Outpatient Center, Bloomington, said after finishing his lifting, cardio and core strengthening workout at the Carle Health & Fitness Center on Nov. 24.
“It’s a sense of feeling good,” John Hesse, vice president of Business Development, Carle Health Central Region, said, after he and his wife, Julie, completed a metabolic workout consisting of running, jump rope and body weight exercises on Nov. 24.
“It jump-starts your day,” Hesse said. “We exercise first thing in the morning. We motivate each other and there’s also a social component.”
Long-term, exercise reduces the risk of diseases – such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease – that Dr. Hill treats in his patients.
Working out at Carle Health & Fitness Center has the additional benefit of access to fitness professionals who can develop workouts for fitness center members, advise them on how to exercise safely and track their progress. People who don’t need coaching may work out on their own.
“There’s something in this center for everyone,” Hesse said. “This was built as a medically integrated fitness center.”
So, how can people make sure that they continue their fitness routine during their busy December? Here are some tips from Carle Health fitness professionals and from two Carle Health team members (Hesse and Dr. Hill) who exercise regularly:
Make exercise a priority
“A lot of it boils down to priorities,” Dr. Hill said. “For me, it’s something that makes the rest of the day better.”
“It’s always a part of our routine,” Hesse said. “We don’t see (exercising during) the holidays any differently than exercising in April or August. And it allows us to indulge a bit during the holidays because we know we’re going to be exercising.”
“Make you and your fitness a priority,” Albers said. When you are healthier, you can be there for yourself and others.
“Fitness isn’t all about what the scale says,” Albers said. “It’s about stress reduction and overall improvement in your mood and general well-being.”
Don’t take extended breaks
Taking a day off exercise to give your body a rest is OK. Maybe you have a cold. Maybe your kids are sick. Or maybe you worked late and just need a break.
The key is to resume exercise as soon as you can.
“Missing a day of exercise is OK,” Dr. Hill said. “Just don’t make it a week of bad habits.”
Something is better than nothing
If you have a busy day and can’t get to the gym or are out of town, doing an abbreviated workout is better than missing your workout altogether.
For example, if you can’t get to the fitness center for your one-hour workout because you’re busy with the kids or getting ready for the holidays or there’s a snowstorm, do a 20- to 30-minute workout at home. If you are going to be at a relative’s house for a few days around the holidays, bring your workout clothes and exercise there, Barrack-Brooks said. YouTube has different types of at-home exercise classes for free.
Another option is a brisk walk outdoors, weather permitting.
“If you can’t fit in your gym routine during a particular week, try to get out two to three times that week for a half-hour and just move,” Hesse said.
If you don’t have 20 to 30 minutes, consider three, 10-minute exercise sessions spread throughout the day.
“I often tell people doing something for at least 20 to 30 minutes can create such major change in their mood and decrease overall stress levels,” Albers said. “Just get your body moving.”
If you have no time for exercise because you’re busy getting your house cleaned and decorated for a holiday gathering, dress comfortably, keep moving and consider the housework to be your workout for that day.
Enjoy winter/holiday activities
Sledding, snow shoeing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, even building snowmen and snowwomen are exercises even if we’re having too much fun to realize it. Take advantage of the snow when we get it.
Build activity into family visits. Go for a walk after eating or play an active family game, Barrack-Brooks said.
“Just doing something active every day is rewarding in itself,” Barrack-Brooks said. “Don’t wait until the New Year.”
Carle Health & Fitness Center in Bloomington offers a wide range of programs and services for people of all fitness levels. For more information, click here.
Carle Sports Medicine in Champaign works with community members and student athletes on injury prevention, rehabilitating from injury and finding a training method best suited to develop your skillset. For more information, click here.
For more information on living well from Hally, click here.
Health Alliance members may be able to save money on their fitness center membership through the Fitness Allowance program (Fully-Insured Commercial) and Be Fit (Medicare Advantage) programs.
Categories: Staying Healthy