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Keys to Staying Healthy During the Holiday Season

Finding balance can preserve one’s well-being.

Students participate in PHED 108: Weight Training and Body Conditioning at the RAC on Fairfax campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University

Students participate in PHED 108: Weight Training and Body Conditioning at the RAC on Fairfax campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University Alexis Glenn

Food, festivities and friends are synonymous with the holidays. However, celebrations can take a toll on your health.

“The holidays are times of rush and chaos and of thinking of everyone but yourself,” said Michelle Walters-Edwards, department chair and association professor of health and human performance at Marymount University in Arlington.

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Exercise is the key to holiday health preservation, say experts.

Health and fitness experts say that even during the hustle and bustle of the season, it is possible to stay healthy and energized. It just takes a little focus.

“I may be stating the obvious, but exercise is the key to staying healthy during the holidays,” said Rosa Ganey, a nurse health educator for Fairfax County Health Network and a Burke resident.

Between shopping, parties and decorating, many people feel pressed for time and exercise can fall by the wayside. Here are a few creative ways to sneak in some fitness:

Incorporate exercise into holiday shopping. “You can walk at the mall and do some window shopping or use your home as an exercise base: The stairs can be used as a perfect location to get your blood pumping,” said Walters Edwards.

Make it a family affair. “If you have kids at home, maybe you can play exercise or dance videos or CDs and try the moves together,” said Ganey.

Celebratory gatherings can offer opportunities for exercise as well. “Dance at your holiday party,” said Michelle Walters-Edwards. “Thirty minutes of moderate dancing can burn around 200 calories in a person [who weighs] 150 lbs.”

If there’s no time for the gym, improvise, say experts. “Sometimes it can be challenging to find time to make it to the gym, but there are quite a few bodyweight exercises you can do at home,” said Joel Martin, an assistant professor of kinesiology at George Mason University in Fairfax. “Most people think of pushups and sit-ups when they hear the words ‘bodyweight exercise.’ However, there are quite a few other exercises like air squats, burpees, planks, mountain climbers.”

Accommodate for less workout time during the holidays. “Probably the most important piece of advice I would give, since your workout will most likely be shorter than usual, is try to maintain a high intensity for the duration of the workout and minimize the time you spend resting,” said Martin.

Break up a workout routine. “Doing several 10-15 minute workouts throughout the day using only body weight movements at home may be another solution for someone crunched for time,” said Martin. “I recommend picking three or four movements or exercises and doing several sets of each with less than a minute of rest between sets.”

Above all, say experts, balance is vital to preserving one’s health and well-being during the holidays. “Maintain a focus on balancing your stress, eating and exercise year-round. Extremes of each of these factors are not healthy. Remember, moderation is key,” said Walters-Edwards.