by guest blogger Greg Hoak, MS, CSCS
The holiday season is here, and with all of the stress and chaos associated with it, people’s workouts are often the first thing to drop off of their daily “to-do” list.
But dropping the dumbbells to decorate? Or skipping cardio to bake cookies? Holiday activities are no excuse. The truth is this is the WORST time to abandon your workout routine.
Here’s why you can’t skip workouts—especially over the holidays:
1. They ward off holiday weight gain. Studies show that the average person gains about a pound between Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. While that may not seem like a lot, those same studies show people generally don’t shed the extra baggage. And overweight and obese people tend to gain even more—sometimes as much as 5 pounds—in just that short amount of time. Translation? A decade of this holiday weight-gain pattern equals 10 to 50 extra pounds on your frame, putting you at a higher risk for chronic diseases and a bum metabolism.
My clients understand the risk of falling off the wagon around the holidays well, and I’m happy to report that cancellations, particularly around the holidays, are rare.
One client in particular, Melissa, gets a very clear reminder of the dangers of skipping workouts every day. A busy surgeon with two kids, Melissa is adamant about sticking to her workout schedule, especially around the holidays. Why? Because she sees firsthand what can happen when people eat poorly and avoid exercise. As a surgeon, she sees the damage type 2 diabetes can do—sometimes to the point of requiring amputations. She has a constant reminder at work that turning your back on exercise and a healthy diet can lead to serious (and often avoidable) health problems.
2. They erase a bad mood. Getting the house clean before the guests arrive, finding the perfect gift for everyone on your shopping list, figuring out how to create the perfect holiday meal—it’s not uncommon to lose the true meaning of the holidays and become completely stressed out.
Luckily, exercise is a proven mood booster, and is even sometimes used as a treatment for depression. While exercise alone can change your brain chemistry in a positive way, listening to music you love actually increases the mood-improving power of a workout, according to Columbus State University researchers. (Here’s a list of all different types of playlists: rodalewellness.com/tags/workout-playlist.)
3. They induce amazing, healthy sleep patterns. Holiday stress can create whacked-out sleeping patterns. And science now shows us that proper sleep is vital if you want to lose weight. A recent National Sleep Foundation study found that up to 67 percent of regular exercisers report getting a good night’s sleep. Exercise’s sleep-enhancing properties held true no matter what time of day—or night—people worked out.
Bonus tip: If you don’t already exercise, please stop pushing it off. The time to start is now—not “next Monday,” not the new year. If you’re not currently in an exercise routine, December is one of the best times to get started because the gym isn’t packed with all of the New Year’s resolution exercises yet. It’s the perfect time to get in and get a good deal and start with a highly certified trainer.
Start now—don’t wait until January. It’s always now. Now is the best time. You don’t want to fall into the boom-and-bust cliché of the New Year’s resolution.
Greg Hoak, MS, CSCS, is the developer of FarmerFit and has been a professional fitness trainer for 12 years. He earned an exercise science degree from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania. He’s trained professional athletes and mixed martial arts fighters, amateur athletes, and everyday people. He’s also a sustainable farmer at Potter’s Farm in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, where he and his wife run a community-supported agriculture program, growing vegetables and tending to egg-laying hens raised on pasture.