Exercise Tips for Avoiding the Holiday Blues

Controlling your weight and your blood sugars.

Sheri Colberg-Ochs By Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD

You may swear that the ubiquitous holiday cookies were Heaven sent, the holiday chocolates divine.  Is your willpower dissolving, your waistline expanding, and your blood sugar rising just thinking about this season's delectable goodies?  What about the guilt factor?  You may find yourself eating a little bit extra here and there, and as a result, your blood sugars may not be as good as you know they should be.  Maybe you're rationalizing it by saying that you'll do better in the New Year – just add it to your long list of resolutions you're promising to keep in 2006.  Well, I'm here to tell you to lose the guilt and the resolutions!  You can keep the extra weight off and keep your blood sugars under control even without passing up on all of the goodies.  Here are some tips to help you keep your holidays merry.

Tip #1:  Return to your hunter-gatherer roots!  Add more physical movement into your daily life.  People who simply increase their physical activity during everyday activities are just as successful at preventing weight gain as those who engage in more formal daily exercise.  So, you don't have to resolve to join a gym or a fitness center to take off excess holiday pounds; simply prevent yourself from getting them in the first place by limiting your sedentary activities.  For example, if you're going to indulge in some holiday goodies, make yourself walk to get them (i.e., don't keep them on your desk in front of you).  Moreover, while you're eating one slowly (and savoring each bite), stand up and walk around rather than sitting down.

Tip #2:  Taking more steps every day during the holiday season keeps the calories at bay!  For every extra calorie you consume during the holiday season, add 20 steps to your day.  The equivalent of a mile is roughly 2,000 steps, and for most people, walking a mile expends 100 to 150 calories (depending on your body weight).  At 100 calories per mile, walking 500 extra steps would expend about 25 calories, which would negate the calories contained in about one half of a typical holiday cookie.  Add those steps in whenever and wherever you can.

Tip #3:  Forget the long lines for the elevator – take the stairs instead!  In fact, you can even take the stairs instead of the elevator or the escalator while doing your holiday shopping.  Walking up a flight of stairs can expend 5 to 10 calories, depending on your body weight and the number of stairs you climb.  If going up is too hard, start by walking down (but keep in mind that going down stairs typically expends one third of the energy).  If you have stairs in your home, you can do the same thing by frequently going up and down them an extra time or two (or three) whenever you have the chance.

Tip #4:  Do some window shopping as well!  Walk up and down the shopping mall an extra time or two, carrying all of your gift-filled bags – the more the better.  Adding in the additional mileage, especially when carrying some extra weight, will help you expend extra energy while accomplishing your pressing holiday errands.  Also, park at the far end of the mall parking lot and walk the extra distance to and from your car. 

Tip #5:  Use your saved time wisely by being more active!  If you let your fingers do the shopping (on the Internet, via phone, or through holiday catalog shopping), take the time you saved and exercise instead.  Take the dog out for a walk around the block.  Go to your local Y, community center, fitness club, or other exercise facility and participate in an exercise class.  Even yoga and t'ai chi expend extra energy and help relieve pent-up holiday stress and anxiety.


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Last Modified Date: February 15, 2013

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