The Overlooked Factor for Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

Healthy holidays

Ask your coworker or a family member how to stay healthy during the holidays. They’ll probably mention abstaining from that second piece of dessert, choosing more lean turkey and fewer starchy sides during Thanksgiving dinner, and being mindful when you indulge.

All of these things contribute to healthy holidays, but one variable often gets overlooked: a consistent fitness routine.  

Maintaining a Fitness Routine During the Holidays

Creating an exercise plan usually happens after the holidays, when we’ve indulged in too many sugar cookies and that favorite pair of jeans that once felt loose now fit like skinny jeans. Gyms, personal trainers, and fitness programs realize your plight. They capitalize on that after-holiday “I’ve gained eight pounds, and I feel out of shape” mentality. After all, getting in better shape is among almost everyone’s New Year’s resolutions.

But why not create an exercise plan right now and reap all of its benefits — including dialing down stress and losing weight — during the holidays? One of the best ways to stay healthy around the holiday season is to establish and maintain a consistent workout routine.

Consider the benefits: the right exercise plan can curb cravings, help you stay more focused, and manage your mood better. In other words, a fitness routine can help you better cope with the stressful holiday time from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. Research shows that a well-designed exercise plan can improve depression, anxiety, and stress — all of which that the holidays often trigger or exacerbate.

While we know the many benefits of consistent exercise, why don’t more of us do it? Among the factors that inhibit fitness include age, lack of time, and climate. Put another way, as we get older and life doles out more demands, fitness often gets pushed to the back-burner. When the weather gets colder and the festivities begin, it can be difficult to make time for exercise during the holidays.

Home Workouts: Incorporating HIIT into Your Daily Routine

Workout plans don’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves alternating brief, intermittent bursts of vigorous exercise with rest or low-intensity recovery. Research shows that HIIT can provide similar or even better benefits compared with moderate endurance training, and you don’t need an hour at the gym — or even a gym itself — to get those benefits. You can get a full body workout at home in less time than it takes to stand in the Target checkout line during the holidays.

The Benefits of Full-Body HIIT Workouts

One at-home program that incorporated three HIIT sessions took less than 45 minutes a week. That’s 30 percent less time than the current adult guidelines for vigorous activity and only one‐third of the time recommended for moderate activity! HIIT provides a time‐efficient form of exercise suitable for all ages that you can do indoors during inclement weather. While intense and challenging, researchers find that HIIT can be more enjoyable and less effortful than traditional endurance exercise.

How to Do a HIIT Workout at Home

You can do HIIT anywhere. Say you’re staying at a hotel visiting your in-laws during Hanukkah. You don’t even need to find the gym for a workout. Simply find the staircase. Walk up vigorously for 30–60 seconds, walk down the stairs for double that amount of time, and repeat. You will get a heart-racing no-gym workout and maybe even blow off some of that holiday stress!

Research shows HIIT can help you lose weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and so much more. You can see these improvements very quickly — between two and six weeks, in fact. Imagine feeling fitter and having an exercise plan in place by January when most people are just signing gym memberships!

Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of working out. As you grow older, you lose muscle mass and strength. One study found a four-week, home-based fitness plan significantly improved muscle mass and strength in older adults. The exercise plan the researchers used required minimal equipment and incorporated bodyweight exercises including lunges, calf raises, and squats. These exercises mimic the movements we do daily and optimize our ability to do them as we grow older.

Ideally, you’ll do some combination of HIIT and bodyweight exercises. You might do HIIT three days a week and complement those efforts with bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and planks on your off days. Regardless of what you opt for, you’ll want to create a fitness routine that works for you and sustains you through the holidays and beyond.

9 Ways to Avoid Skipping Exercise this Holiday Season

Once you’ve determined what works for you, commit completely and stick with your fitness routine. These nine strategies can help optimize your fitness plan and help you stay consistent — especially during the busy holiday season.

1. Find your “why” to exercise more.

Once you establish the personal benefits of an exercise plan, you’re more likely to stick with that plan. Write down five benefits that consistent exercise will provide. Yours might include reducing stress and helping you lose weight. On top of those reasons, determine your big “why,” or the needle mover that helps you stay consistent on those days you don’t want to exercise. That might be feeling more vibrant around your grandkids, boosting your sex drive, or getting in a smaller pair of jeans by February.

2. Schedule it in.

Skipping exercise during the holidays becomes all too easy as numerous obstacles sidetrack our days. A no-gym workout requires a little planning, but with time-efficient HIIT or even bodyweight exercises, you can knock out a workout in 10 or 15 minutes. Working out first thing in the morning is ideal for many people before the day’s obligations sidetrack you.

3. Commit to making time for exercise… and make it fun.

Once you’ve determined you’ll work out during the holidays, create a contract with yourself that you’ll actually stick with. Better yet, commit with a friend or your significant other. You might even have a contest to see who can fit in more workouts or create some sort of repercussion if you blow off your workout, such adding a set of push-ups to the next workout. If you’re feeling a little sluggish, put on some upbeat music and get moving. When you make fitness fun, you’re much more likely to stick with that commitment.

4. Find ways to move more.

You don’t always need a chunk of time to fit fitness in during the holidays. During TV commercials, do a one-minute plank. If you’re wearing comfortable clothes, slip into the bathroom before that big holiday dinner and do some squats. Park your car further away from the mall entrance — you’ll save gas and frustration rather than driving around looking for that perfect spot! You don’t need to find time for exercise; you can create those moments throughout your day.

5. Focus on rest and recovery.

Balance is key with any exercise plan. Overdo a workout and you’re likely to feel its unpleasant aftermath the next day. Under-utilize exercise and you miss all the benefits. Your workout should be intense, but you also want to take rest days to allow your body repair and recovery.

6. Support your workout with the right nutrients.

A few well-chosen supplements can optimize muscle growth, recovery, and performance. At the very least, you’ll want to take a good multivitamin (for men, women, and kids). Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce exercise-related soreness and inflammation. You might also consider adding L-glutamine powder, which helps reduce muscle soreness and support recovery. Our Strength & Recovery Complex combines L-glutamine with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to optimize muscle synthesis and repair.

7. Remember that starting is the hardest part.

Gyms partly profit because they know some people who sign up for memberships never even start that first workout. Once you’ve established a routine, you’ll probably find the first few workouts the most challenging. But like any healthy habit, things get easier over time. Show up, maintain the right mindset, and remember that just moving more is a great beginning. You might even find yourself looking forward to a vigorous workout before that intense office business meeting or after a hectic workday.

8. Be an example to others.

Positive habits are contagious. When your coworkers see how diligently you stick with your fitness plan, they will feel more inspired to start or maintain their own. That especially proves true with kids who sometimes might want to veg out watching TV or video games rather than move. Holidays make a great time to move more. Encourage touch football before Thanksgiving or a vigorous Christmas day hike.

9. Maintain stellar healthy habits.

Consistent exercise doesn’t give you permission to eat whatever you want, but you might find you eat healthier when you exercise. Good habits beget good habits. And if you do occasionally indulge, exercise provides a buffer to help maintain blood sugar balance and minimize the repercussions of that cinnamon scone or fudge. Excellent sleep, stress management, and sustaining the right mindset are other crucial components that complement your fitness routine to help you stay healthy during the holidays and beyond.

If you’re looking for an effective, time-efficient plan that you can do at home, check out our MaxT3 program. Our motto is, “Maximum results, minimum time,” and we mean it. You can get a full body HIIT workout in just 12 minutes a day at home. Start this program now and you can cross one resolution off your list early!