Holidays can be dangerous to your waistline, but not in quite the way you think. The good news, the National Institutes of Health report, is that Americans gain about one pound over the winter holidays — far below the 7 pounds many believe is the annual average gain. The bad news is that this yearly weight gain can accumulate, leading to obesity later in life. Social and family obligations over the holidays can make it difficult to keep to workout schedules — but with some forethought, you can enjoy fit, healthy holidays.
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Plan Realistic Workouts
Begin making plans to stay fit during the holidays before they begin. Draft a schedule that allows for workouts and for time to prepare healthy meals. According to the Workouts for You website, the key is to be realistic and plan workouts that are shorter than usual. Not only is a 10-minute workout much better than none at all, but once you've started, you might find that you really do have the energy — and time — to go longer.
High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training, which burns the maximum calories in the minimum amount of time, can be a godsend over the holidays. CBS News suggests setting an exercise bike, treadmill or step machine for the interval program option, where periods of working out at high speed are interspersed with slower recovery intervals. If you don't have access to such machines, do jumping jacks, jump rope, jog or sprint, alternating bursts of quick activity with a slower pace.
Combine physical activities with holiday tasks and errands. Parking a distance from the mall entrance and jogging to the doors, walking rapidly while shopping or taking a 10-minute break from baking to do calisthenics can all help burn excess calories and promote well-being. The American Council on Exercise suggests you create new, physically active holiday traditions: Throw an ice-skating or sledding party rather than a cocktail party, or have the family tour the neighborhood on foot to see the Christmas lights. You can also use seasonal chores — raking leaves or shoveling snow — to burn calories, but do so with caution to avoid muscle strain or injury,
Holiday Party Strategies
To avoid overindulging at parties, make sure you eat normally that day; Workouts for You notes that starving yourself beforehand often backfires. Head for the low-calorie foods — such as carrot and celery sticks, fruit and lean chicken — first. Iowa State University suggests putting food on a plate rather than snacking straight from the buffet, and sitting down to enjoy it. Later on, allow yourself a moderate portion of something truly rich and satisfying. CBS News points out that letting yourself to enjoy a treat thoroughly and without guilt can actually help you keep up your motivation not to overeat. Keep calories from alcohol to a minimum by diluting white wine with club soda to make a wine spritzer. If you do end up overeating at a holiday party, don't the guilt from one mistake torpedo your plan for the rest of the holidays.