The busy – and often stressful – holiday season can put a damper on your physical fitness routine. But by keeping up with healthy exercise habits, you can reduce stress, and when coupled with a healthy diet, reduce the risk of carrying around that unwanted “holiday bulge.”

Cynthia Hudson, D.N.Sc., M.S.N., RN

“Over half the United States adult population is inactive, and children decrease their level of physical activity as they age,” says Cynthia E. Hudson, D.N.Sc., M.S.N., RN, associate professor and director of nursing education for the College of Nursing at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Round Rock Campus. “This makes physical activity all the more important, especially during a season infamous for increased stress and unhealthy eating habits.”

Hudson suggests following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to incorporate physical activity into the busy holiday schedule. These include:

  • Anticipate barriers to being physically active, including holiday travel and long car rides.
  • Consider walking or biking to do holiday shopping.
  • Take your tennis shoes to work and walk during lunch or walk immediately after work, before you get home.
  • Take three 10 minutes walks each day. It will get you moving without interrupting a busy holiday schedule.
  • Don’t park near the door. Instead, park in a spot a little farther than your normal comfort zone, and use the extra walk to gain physical activity
  • Enjoy holiday parties. Dancing is great physical activity.
  • Use your favorite holiday music as background to your exercise routine.
  • Remember when possible to take the stairs instead of elevators.
  • Schedule a brisk family walk to view neighborhood holiday decorations.
  • Consider performing yard work as a gift to an elderly neighbor. They get their yard spruced up, and you get your heart pumping.

As a reminder, if you are not currently physically active, have a chronic health problem or are over age 40, check with your provider before starting a new physical activity program.

— Holly Shive