Written By: Erin Burke, MS, RD, LDN
Let’s face it: the holidays can be stressful. When we are faced with budget concerns, family commitments, party planning responsibilities, and even less free time in our already busy lives, it can be a challenge to take a time-out for ourselves. When you add your intentions to eat well and exercise on top of that, it’s no surprise we end up stress-eating the Christmas cookies before Santa even thinks of loading up his sleigh!
Despite knowing that exercise is good for us, many adults are falling short of the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. In fact, only 52% met that minimum amount in 2016 (1). We’ve also heard that exercise can help with stress management. And some people even seem to like it. So how do we find that motivation to move, especially during the busy holiday season?
First, think about some activities you enjoy doing. If your exercise routine is making you miserable, of course you will not do it. Pick something you like: ice skating, jogging, walking, dancing, shopping, swimming, hiking, biking, cartwheeling, rock-climbing, cleaning, yoga, martial arts, or just playing with your kids or neighbors (softball, soccer, tag, basketball).
Second, remove weight loss as a motivator. Studies show that exercise alone produces modest weight loss, at best. So when your weight doesn’t budge, you need something else to keep you going (2,3). For example, think of exercise as a treat you give to yourself, such as having some “me” time or learning a new skill. Independent of weight loss, it can be helpful for lowering blood sugar levels and strengthening your heart.
Third, decide if you want a buddy. Some people prefer to exercise with a friend; others want to keep it a solo activity. Consider what will be more motivating for you; is it silence, music, an audiobook, or a podcast? Or having a friend who expects you to participate in the activity?
Fourth, schedule it! This might mean saying “no” to some other responsibilities. Take a look at your commitments; Prioritize, list, rank and cross-out those that are unnecessary or you don’t actually want to do. This is more fun if you write it out on paper or use your calendar.
Finally, do not make it more difficult! Be compassionate with yourself and abilities. Many people think “exercise” solely consists of going as hard and as fast as you can. But that can lead to burnout and injury, and you will never be able to keep up with your unrealistic expectations. Progress slowly. Not in the mood for a heart-pumping treadmill work out? Then take it to the sidewalk for a low-impact stroll. This is ok and it is not a waste of time. It still “counts”.
Looking for some inspiration this holiday season? Check out the fun events going on around the Triangle over the next few months:
Races, fun runs, and walks are easily accessible around the holidays. Proceeds often benefit a local charity, and they are open to all skill levels. Strollers, leashed dogs, and families are usually welcome. See the chart below for upcoming race details:
Open skate is offered at multiple locations throughout the triangle, including the Cary Ice House, Raleigh Center Ice, Raleigh Ice Plex, and the Orange County Sports Plex. Many also offer learn-to-skate programs throughout the year!
Learn to dance! Fred Astaire Dance Studio offers dance lessons for individuals, couples, and groups. Many YMCAs also offer dance classes and seniors can also get involved with the Silver Sneakers Program.
Learn to Ski:
Take a weekend trip to the mountains and learn to ski or snowboard (http://www.skisugar.com/snowsportsschool/sugarbear/)
Pick Up a New Hobby:
Meetup is a great site to support your search for a new hobby. Interested in hiking or learning to play ultimate Frisbee? There is a meetup for that.
Changing habits to be more active, especially during such a busy season, can be challenging. Rather than waiting for January 1st, think about small ways you can treat yourself now. Maybe all you have time for is a 5-minute walk outside or a quick game of tag with your kids. These little changes today add up to big results over time. If you are struggling to find some motivation or a lacking accountability, schedule an appointment with an Avance Care Dietitian/Nutritionist today!