The holidays are an easy time of year to cheat on healthy eating and exercise routines. With family meals, holidays parties and gifted treats lining workplace kitchens like a calorie alley, many experience setbacks.
As Thanksgiving transitions into the December and Christmas holidays, people often fall victim to nearly six weeks of inactivity and unhealthy diet, and head into January with a lot of ground to make up.
Traveling during the holidays exponentially increases the likelihood of exercise falling by the wayside. Prevent yourself from having to make a lot of New Year’s resolutions by breaking that cycle now. With a little preparation, your holiday can be fun and fulfilling without setting yourself up for a tough transition back into your health routine. Have a well-rounded holiday season with these four tips from the doctors at Tryon Medical Partners.
Make it a group effort
By making exercise an activity enjoyed with family and friends, you automatically have buddies to keep you accountable and it becomes an opportunity to spend time together.
“Engage others to meet you in your goals,” says Dr. Michael Farwell, an internal medicine specialist at Tryon SouthPark. It’s easier to stay active and eat well when you do it together. Plus, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and this is just another opportunity to build those connections.”
The Farwell family did just that earlier this year with their annual “turkey trot” 5K run.
“It’s our Thanksgiving tradition,” he says. “We spend that time bonding, then, after the race, enjoy the big meal together. It helps to not have the whole day focused on being sedentary and eating.”
Pack for success
“Planning ahead but being flexible is the overarching theme to incorporating your fitness routine into your travel itinerary,” says Dr. Meredith Faulkner, an internal medicine specialist at Tryon Uptown. “If you’re traveling, that starts with packing smart.”
Make sure your running shoes make it into your luggage along with weather-appropriate gear to make you comfortable outside, like a hat, gloves and warm workout clothes. Even though you can’t fly with free weights (which Dr. Faulkner found out the hard way!), resistance bands are easy to bring along.
If you enjoy hitting the gym, many have reciprocal memberships with locations in other cities, or you can find studios that offer daily or weekly passes. Seeing what your favorite workout classes look like in different cities can be fun, Dr. Faulkner says, and you may even learn something new.
Keeping up your exercise routine also has the benefit of being a stress reliever.
“Let’s be honest, sometimes the holidays and traveling to see family can be stressful,” Dr. Faulkner says. “If working out helps you cope with that stress, get up early and do it first thing and draw on that peace all day.”
Get creative outdoors
Getting exercise doesn’t have to mean heading out for a run or hitting the gym. Incorporating outdoor activities into your holiday schedule keeps you active, is a great full-family outing and offers the chance to explore if you’re traveling to see family, says Dr. Faulkner, who enjoyed her own family hike earlier this year while visiting her sister.
Dr. Farwell suggests finding outdoor activities that also incorporate the holiday season, like ice skating at the U.S. National Whitewater Center or walking through the light displays at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
These forms of outdoor exercise are also safer options since we are still in a pandemic.
“We need to be cognizant of COVID-19 safety with family gatherings and group activities,” Dr. Farwell says. “All of us are going through COVID burnout but we need to stay diligent. Continue to social distance and wear a mask to reduce risk of illness.”
Everything in moderation
When it comes to eating well, the holidays can be especially challenging with treats, parties, dinners and gifts of food. There are special desserts, candy and beverages that just aren’t around all year.
Dr. Farwell admits he falls victim to it, too, but that moderation is key. Enjoy the holidays, but not to excess. Instead of having a dozen cookies, enjoy one or two.
“Moderation should be our principle all year round, but especially at the holidays,” he says. “It’s important not to get so far off of healthy eating that we spend weeks, even months, making up for it after.”
Remember to stay connected to your doctor and continue taking care of long-standing medical conditions, like taking your medications and regulating your blood sugar if you’re diabetic. Many people end up in the emergency room at the holidays because they get off their routines and think they can just make up for it later. Enjoy the holidays, celebrate and spend time with those you love. Just be sure to do it all safely!