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Exercising During the Holidays

"Time is an exercise routine?s greatest enemy"
By: Jose Maria M. Villarama IIExercising During the Holidays

Every year, the Department of Health issues a gentle reminder to the public to indulge in Christmas fare in moderation.  While many argue that it is a mere ministerial duty on the part of the Health Department to issue such an advisory, it is made not without just reason.  Truth be told, a significant increase in the number of cases of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and even death are being reported in hospitals during the Christmas season.  While the long holiday break and the bed weather are reasons enough to skip the gym, maintaining good health and guaranteeing a longer life for the coming year should be motivation enough to stay active during the Christmas season.

Time is an exercise routine’s greatest enemy during the holiday season.  Using time as an excuse, one can argue two ways: (1) the long holiday break should be used as an opportunity to rest from the stresses of work and a daily routine, including exercise or (2) there are too many parties and reunions to go to and little time to sleep to squeeze in an hour or so in the gym. 

Another argument is that the holiday break is just a very short breather from one’s exercise program anyway and that it wouldn’t hurt missing it for a week or so.  Well actually, it will hurt --- one’s health that is.  Research conducted by the University of Bath in England in 2013 has shown that a mere seven days of lying around vis a vis a regular active lifestyle can reverse whatever gains one has already achieved because of exercise.  This was gauged in terms of blood sugar levels, metabolism, weight management, and overall state of health. 

However, none of the reasons cited above should be an excuse or an impediment to continue exercising during the holidays. For one, time should never be a constraint for working out.  In fact, time can work for and with individuals who are on a very hectic holiday schedule.  Among the simple fixes to help keep one in tip-top shape given limited time are:

  • Mini-workouts - There are exercise routines that have been designed to give a full body workout in as little as 7 minutes.  These condensed programs rarely need any equipment and can be executed in a breeze with maximum results.
  • Exercise apps – There are several apps available today which can guide or accompany one through a quick yet effective routine. Meanwhile, there are others that keep track of one’s level of activity (such as the number of steps one has taken) and can, therefore, help monitor how much calories one has burned. 
  • Equipment alternatives – Again, one does not have to have gym equipment to be able to exercise effectively.  If one is compelled to stay indoors for whatever reason, jump ropes and resistance bands are only some of the exercise equipment that one can use for a home workout. 
  • Changing the routine – Since one’s brain is on holiday mode, thinking about the usual routine is likely a deterrent to get one motivated to exercise.  For example, if one regularly hits the gym four times a week, why not take a jog or bike with a friend or relative instead? 
  • Doing chores - While performing household tasks may not be one’s idea of spending the holidays wisely, it may very well be a chance to get some exercise while in the house.  Helping move furniture around like sofas, chairs, tables and the like for parties, cleaning one’s garage or living room to create extra space for visitors, clearing wardrobes of old clothes to make room for new ones, cleaning one’s own or the kids’ bedrooms, which one may not have the time for during non-holiday months, are only some of the chores that can keep one active.       
  • Walk, walk, walk! – Instead of taking a car or public transportation to the village or church Christmas party, why not just walk to the destination with friends?  Going to the mall to spend Christmas money may also be a good opportunity to walk, that is if one doesn’t mind heavy “people traffic” in commercial areas.
  • Nature hikes - While away in the province, one should not pass up the opportunity to walk on nature trails or the beaches.  Simply taking a walk around the town plaza with one’s relatives to make up for lost time is a good enough activity, especially after a heavy family meal.
While most of the excuses and proposed solutions listed above are based on difficulties from the lack of time or access to exercise equipment or facilities, the situation will become even more problematic when one loses the drive to exercise because of the long break. If one exercises regularly, say three times a week, he or she should stick to that schedule during the holidays, even if exercise intensity will be brought down a notch, to keep determination levels steady.  
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