This year, the holiday season will not only bring indulgent food and the colder weather we expect, but also more time without structured activities, traditional gatherings and more time at home. Perhaps families can find a silver lining of this extra togetherness and try some new healthy activities.
Physical activity is a first line “treatment” for so many common, chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, heart and vascular disease, diabetes, arthritis/joint pains, anxiety and depression.
Even in the winter, there are some random, warmer days. Make sure you take advantage of those and get outside for walks and runs. In northwest Ohio, the Metroparks are great places for families to explore. Take evening walks in a neighborhood or in a downtown to enjoy the holiday lights and decorations.
Utilize staircases when possible. This is a great way to get a short burst mini-workout throughout the day. Families can track the number of steps and total them to see how ‘high’ they climb. Note that if you’re just getting started with physical activity, use caution by taking stairs that have a hand-railing.
Explore YouTube for workouts. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of workout videos available to stream at home. Workouts can range from 10 minutes to over an hour, and no equipment is needed for many of them. Just find a little open space and a towel (it is amazing how much sweat you can get going in a short amount of time). Families can keep each other accountable and share their favorite workouts.
Healthy eating is fundamental to preventing chronic diseases and fueling your body to function at its best. During the holidays, it can seem like there are cookies and candy and sweets everywhere. Consider little strategies to avoid them, like always having a strong mint or gum available. These can occupy your taste buds and help prevent you from a cycle of snacking.
It is important to know yourself and what works best for you when it comes to healthy eating. You may be a person who needs to have your meals planned and prepared ahead of time. You may be a person who appreciates a “cheat day” to motivate you to eat well the other six days. You might be someone who needs a more “all or nothing” approach and needs to completely cut carbs or sugars out of the diet, for example. Reflect on what you can see yourself doing, not just in the short term to lose that stubborn 10 pounds, but what can you see yourself still doing in one year, 10 years or even 20 years down the road.
Enjoy the holiday season and have your special holiday meal. The key is to limit the celebration to one meal that day and resume your family’s healthy eating when it is finished.
Implementing some of these healthy strategies this holiday season will only add to the magic and happiness your family creates.
Kevin Bingle, MD, is a physician who specializes in family medicine at ProMedica Physicians Arrowhead Family Practice.