Most of us both look forward to and dread the holidays for our own combination of reasons. I eagerly await the arrival of my family and friends, as I often host one of the meals. On the other hand, I dread the disruption of my routines and the late nights spent shopping, cooking and cleaning up. My exercise routine and eating habits are typically derailed. I feel fatigued and frustrated, and then resigned. Do we have to resign ourselves to the customary 7 to 12 pound holiday weight gain from November through January, or can we choose to break the cycle?
Whether you are hosting company or are the one visiting, the holiday season is wonderful and stressful at the same time. What is the recipe for staying sane and healthy at this time of year? The first key ingredient is a good sleeping schedule. Try to get as many hours of sleep as you normally do. Sleep is critical especially during the holiday season because we’re handling extra stresses and fighting cold and flu viruses as well. Also, going to bed and getting up earlier will give you time in the morning to get organized.
Make a plan for each day and include time for real meals and exercise—tried and true principles to avoid holiday weight gain. A “real meal,” the next ingredient for holiday sanity, is one that includes protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Regrettably, chocolate is not its own food group. During the holidays, I find it easiest to have a granola bar and half a banana, and then work out first thing in the morning. Usually the day gathers steam after that and it’s nearly impossible to find time to exercise.
What about exercise? Always make time for exercise to improve senior fitness. What if you’re visiting someone? Weather permitting, you can jog or walk every day. Remember to pack the right shoes! Getting outside will give you a break from what’s going on indoors and help you sleep better, too. Throughout the day, volunteer to help with an errand and park at the outer reaches of the parking lot to maximize the physical effort. Be the one to get supplies from the basement and go up and back a few extra times. Hint: the basement is where many people keep their fitness equipment, so spend a half hour using the treadmill or stationary bike. Keep moving and don’t give in to watching a lot of television.
What if the weather is icy and nasty, and your arthritis is acting up? Chair-based exercise programs have gained in popularity in recent years. Many Baby Boomers are discovering the benefits of chair-based yoga, which can help build and sustain strength and flexibility. Yoga is a great stress-reliever, and there are many DVDs available showing safe, accessible routines. The Resistance Chair also offers a total body workout and is portable and convenient. With this chair-based exercise, you can work all your major muscle groups following the instructional DVDs, and it fits right into the trunk of your car or easily stows in your RV. You can take your home gym on the road with you.
This year, let’s enjoy the bounty of the holidays with joy, without excess. We can create order in chaotic, stressful days. We can approach each day with a plan, and choose healthier ingredients. Change is possible.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
This year, time’s nature will no more defeat you
This time they will not lead you round and back,
To Autumn, one year older, by the well worn track.
A healthy and happy holiday season to all!