Let’s get this exercise party started!
Why are we talking about creating exercise habits during the holiday season?! Why not?! Here we are at the 8-week span of holiday festivities or as I sometimes refer to as ‘food-fest’. It’s often a time when people are so busy with work parties and kids’ events that they stop working out and start talking about January resolutions. And we all know how well that goes. So why not start a little early with a small challenge?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report less than 5% of adults engage in physical activity for 30 minutes a day. The rise in sedentary lifestyles can largely be attributed to increased technological use. Our backs are hunched over from typing, our heads from texting and our hips are tight from sitting all day. Some people have begun to invest in standing desks as a result. I love standing while I work! It’s good for my brain and body.
Let it glow. Let it glow. Let it glow.
It doesn’t have to be a new routine or gym but rather a little bit of time dedicated to you and your sweat. Just the 2 of you glowing and glistening to your favorite tunes. Most importantly you should enjoy it and not dread it. So, find something that puts the pep back in your step. Ask a friend to walk or hike with you or turn on some tunes and jump rope outside. It doesn’t have to require equipment, a gym or fancy clothing. Just make it and your health a priority over the holidays. Ho-Ho there you Go!
Regardless, physical activity doesn’t have to mean going to a spin class or joining a fancy gym. You can walk the dog, go for a hike or find some stairs to run up (again and again). The most important part of exercise is finding enjoyable movement that motivates you. If you’re new to exercise, even just going for a walk after meals to balance blood sugar is a great foundation and healthy habit. And being fueled with healthy foods and a good night’s sleep are prerequisites to a good workout the following day.
Working out can be a social activity too. Not only will you have fun, but you’ll have people to hold you accountable too. Grab a friend and try out the local park district’s fitness class or join your company’s softball team. In many cities like Chicago, New York, and San Diego there are free fitness classes available to the public such as Pilates, yoga, hiking and running clubs.
Exercise is the gift that keeps on giving.
The benefits to exercise are numerous. Weightlifting builds lean muscle and strong bones by increasing muscle mass. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), bursts of physical exertion followed by short breaks, increases muscle endurance and are hypothesized to be a more effective way to help less active people get in shape. I’m a big fan of both and enjoy combining them at the gym. If you’re wondering what that looks like, it involves doing a set of light weights until exhaustion, followed by a 1-minute interval on the bike, stair master or treadmill. I love the intensity, short work out duration and extended benefits that continue well after the work out.
Exercise and its numerous molecular benefits can lend itself to a kinder aging process. Studies correlate exercise and the exercised-induced brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), responsible for maintaining healthy neurons and creating new ones, with reducing neurological diseases.
No time like the ‘present’ for a holiday habit.
For some people, it may take 21 days to create a habit. For others there is no set timeline, only practice, practice, practice. Former basketball coach Tom Bartow has broken habit formation into three phases. During the “lightbulb” stage, you feel inspired and motivated. Then, once the honeymoon wears off comes “the struggle”. This phase tests you because you must repeatedly choose to struggle and remain committed. In time, this habit will become “second nature”, you won’t even have to think about it anymore. There’s no energy devoted to it, it’s just part of your routine now. That’s something to look forward to!
Habits are hard to make and even harder to break but they’re not impossible. So, start small and handle expected setbacks in stride. Maybe you’ll walk after dinner each night, bike to work or take the stairs everywhere you go. Lasting change is gradual, so make small, attainable healthy habits and soon it’ll be second nature. You got this!
HHS Office, & Council on Sports. (2017, January 26). Facts & Statistics|Physical Activity. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html
Brookshire, B. (2016, January 05). High-intensity interval training has great gains – and pain. Retrieved from https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious/high-intensity-interval-training-has-great-gains-—-and-pain
Sleiman, S. F., Henry, J., Al-Haddad, R., Hayek, L. E., Haidar, E. A., Stringer, T., . . . Chao, M. V. (2016, June 02). Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate. Retrieved from https://elifesciences.org/articles/15092
Selk, J. (2013, April 15). Habit Formation, The 21 Day Myth. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/&refURL=&referrer=#1367c5f1debc