We asked Jonathan Ross, fitness expert for the Discovery Fit & Health website, host of the web series Everyday Fitness with Jonathan Ross and author of Abs Revealed, for his best advice for making time for exercise during the holidays.
First things first: If you’re hoping to lose weight or start a weight loss program in the midst of the holiday chaos, you might want to think again. We’re not saying you don’t have it in you, but why set yourself up for failure? “This time of year probably isn’t the time to expect progress in fitness," explains Ross. Instead, try to maintain a consistent pattern of exercise so you don’t lose the fitness level that you’ve fought hard to get earlier in the year, he says. By focusing on weight and health maintenance you’ll be much better equipped to make that happen, rather than get frustrated with the lack of time to do longer workouts.
Are you absolutely sure there’s no time to move (besides your near-daily trips to the mall)? Ross suggests shifting your thinking. “A great way to approach exercising at this time of year is to shift the focus from why you can’t and how hard it is to find the time to exercise, and instead look for opportunities where you can work out,” he says. “What are the opportunities for exercise? We already know what the obstacles are.” There are likely holiday habits or traditions that you could skip this year or even stop, and replace a new tradition that involves being active. Why not take a short but brisk stroll through the neighborhood with your hubby or kids to check out the lights? You could take a new route every few days to keep it interesting.
Other options include doing one extra lap around the mall for every holiday shopping trip you take there (Just don’t crash into fellow shoppers!), going on foot for errands that are within walking distance or adding something active to whatever you’re doing (lunge while you stir, jog instead of walk between stores, etc.).
One of the best ways to stay active throughout the holiday season is to exercise in shorter bursts. No long slogs at the gym necessary, especially when you’re ultra-busy and dealing with seasonal stress. “Shorter bursts of exercise take less time. In a world short on time, getting more out of less time with fitness is fantastic,” notes Ross. Only have time to complete half of your favorite workout DVD? That's OK — do the other half when you have time later. Can't eke out more than 15 minutes for a power walk? Do as much as you can, then do another 15 minutes of exercise in the evening.
Shorter bursts of movement also boost mood, a must for any stressful days you experience. Short bursts "get your blood moving and thus elevate mood, and that sends more blood moving to the arms, legs and the back to help them feel better,” says Ross. Not to mention that these shorter workouts reinforce the idea that you’re doing something that moves you toward fitness rather than worrying about the amount of time you’re doing it, he explains.
Ross stresses the importance of dropping the belief that we have to be perfect in our fitness and eating habits to make progress. “We don’t get in shape from one workout and we don’t get out of shape from missing one. To have success at this time of year, we have to let go of perfect.” The holiday season is meant to be enjoyed despite the stress that may lead up to all that festive fun. Make your season easier, not harder, by focusing on making healthier choices and finding opportunities to move more, not on avoiding every sweet treat and exercising for an hour a day from now until January.
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