Staying active during the holiday season

By Danielle Johnson MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, RYT

The holidays can be joyful but can also be full of stress and chaos. We get to spend time with loved ones doing fun things, but that can also be accompanied by busy schedules and delicious calorie-dense foods. Couple that with cold weather and it can make physical activity hard to achieve and unfavorably alter our body composition. Regardless, we can maintain our health throughout the holiday season!

Here are some tips to stay active during the holiday season:

  1. Set realistic expectations: the holidays can be hectic and busy, don’t challenge yourself to hit the gym daily if you can only make it once or twice a week. We can set ourselves up for guilt and shame. It may be helpful to set a goal for maintenance instead of fat loss or muscle gain.
  2. Some movement is better than no movement: even if your frequency or duration is lower during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year, it’s better than no movement at all. Focus on the bigger picture. You can exercise more when the holiday season is over. Don’t let reduced activity derail you from not exercising at all.
  3. Incorporate more NEAT activity: NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) activities are smaller movements outside of scheduled exercise that increases calorie burn. There is a wide variety, but some ideas include walking around the store (shopping!), parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, wrapping gifts, doing the dishes, hanging holiday decorations.
  4. Get the family involved: everyone will benefit from moving their bodies. The human body is made to move! You can start a fun family tradition to move during the holidays. One example could be taking an after-dinner family walk or a fun outdoor family sport game before dinner.
  5. Make a schedule: if exercise is a top priority for you plan your week or month ahead of time. Practice flexibility and have a backup plan or forgive yourself and move on if it doesn’t work out as originally planned.
  6. Change up your routine: if exercise is a top priority and you’re crunching on time, opt for shorter full body workouts. HIIT (High intensity interval training) routines are a great option as well as they are high intensity and short duration – these workouts pack a punch!
  7. Be kind to yourself: it is the holiday season after all!

Danielle Johnson MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, RYT is a registered dietitian who works in the Department of Bariatrics Center of Excellence at Mather Hospital, where she specializes in surgical weight loss and medical weight management. She is also completing her Master of Science in Integrative Nutrition at Stony Brook University.