Busy holiday schedules filled with shopping, planning, traveling, parties, and an endless supply of tempting baked goods can easily throw a wrench in our normal eating and workout routines.
While the holidays may be the hardest time of year to maintain your fitness goals and stick with a workout plan, it’s not the best time to start making aggressive weight loss goals.
But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself armed with a few strategies to get you through the season to keep you healthy and fit.
Holiday Fitness Tips
Here are some tricks and tips that can help you stay fit, active, and healthy through the holidays!
1. Focus on Maintaining Instead of Losing Weight
Reigning in our bad eating habits early can put us in a much better position to get started on those healthy New Year’s resolutions.
Instead of eating like every meal is your last, aim to maintain your weight by choosing more protein and veggies while still enjoying holiday treats in moderation so you don’t feel deprived.
If weight loss is one of your goals, get back to a stricter eating plan after the New Year.
2. Eat Before You Leave The House For Parties
Most holiday parties, as wonderful as they are, don’t always serve healthier food options.
Try eating whole foods like lean protein at home before you leave the house. Even a protein bar can curb cravings and make you feel fuller which can keep you from overindulging.
3. Don’t Skip Meals Or Try To Bank Calories
Skipping meals earlier so you can eat more cheesecake at your next holiday party might look good on paper. But “banking” your calories often makes us more hungry and can cause us to us binge later on. This means you may end up consuming even more calories.
It can also cause blood sugar crashes that can leave us feeling sluggish and anxious. For some of us, it can even trigger headaches and migraines.
Skipping meals, in the long run, can trigger the body to lower its metabolism to conserve the energy it needs to function. This can lead to weight gain even if we’re eating the same amount of food.
To keep your blood sugar balanced, eat higher protein meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. You can also aim to limit your sugar and carb consumption. Then, when you want to indulge in grandma’s sugar cookies, later on, you won’t be tempted to eat the entire tray.
And If you know you’re going to be out holiday shopping for a while, bring along some healthy snacks to keep you fueled.
4. Keep Track Of What You Eat So You Don’t Overindulge
Guesstimating the nutritional value of your holiday favorite indulges is a recipe for failure. And ignorance is bliss until your pants don’t fit.
Getting a general idea of the nutritional info of your favorite meals and snacks can empower you to make better food choices and control your portions.
A simple and effective way to do this is by downloading a nutrition app. They allow you to keep a running total of the nutritional info of what you’re eating each day. They can also help you monitor your choices based on if you want to maintain or lose weight. What’s most useful is that they can show you how quickly unhealthy food choices can add up.
For example, pecan pie is about 500 calories per slice, while a slice of cheesecake will run you a minimum of 400 calories. They’re some of the holiday favorites that I’m definitely not going to pass up, but knowing their nutritional value encourages me to keep my portions under control. Instead of taking a big slice, a sliver can satisfy me. Sometimes just a few bites are all you need.
5. Drink Alcohol In Moderation
The holidays are a time to drink and be merry. But aside from the usual glass of wine or pint of beer, all those extra fancy and dazzling holiday cocktails are usually full of sugar and really pack some serious calories while causing bloat and weight gain. For example, if you love your eggnog, 1 cup of non-alcoholic eggnog will set you back about 343 calories, 19 g of fat per cup, and 23 g of sugar. Take it up a notch and add a shot of brandy or rum and you’re over 400 calories for just one drink. The holidays only come once a year, so you should enjoy yourself. But be mindful of how much you’re drinking.
6. Don’t Forget To Stay Hydrated
Health experts recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day. And a 2010 study in the Journal of Obesity found that drinking water before eating can be an effective tool to help you maintain and even lose weight. And this time of year we can use all the help we can get.
Plus, if you’re drinking alcohol, it’s important to match it with a glass of water for every cocktail to stay hydrated and prevent hangover symptoms.
7. Set Workout Goals, Make A Schedule, And Stick To The Plan
There’s no point in waiting until the new year to start crushing your fitness goals. Even if staying away from all the holiday treats might prove difficult, sticking with your fitness routine can help you burn extra calories while you build strength and endurance. It can also help relieve some stress. But traveling and added obligations can make it easy to blow off exercising if we don’t commit to a schedule. And the reduced hours of daylight don’t make it easy either.
Research has shown that the cognitive process of writing goals down effectively sears them into your brain. What starts out as little ideas then gets perceived as priorities by the brain. This means you’ll be more determined to stick to your workouts and achieve your fitness goals once you write them down.
8. Try Fun Seasonal Activities Like Ice-Skating
Staying active, even in the winter, doesn’t always mean hitting the gym.
From large cities to small towns, there are plenty of opportunities to help you stay active in the celebration of the holidays. To put you in the season’s spirit, try ice-skating, which can burn up to 500 calories per hour. One of the most iconic ice-skating rinks is New York’s own Rockefeller Center, where you can skate while enjoying the splendor of their stunning Christmas tree and surrounding lights. Similarly, you can skate in Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park with their stunning decked-out City Hall as a backdrop. Check your local city’s listings to find a rink near you.
9. Switch Up The Time Of Day You Work Out
Additional obligations and chores around the holidays can cut into our normal routine, making it harder to get that exercise in. If you work out later in the day, try switching your exercise routine to mornings so you get it done and out of the way first.
You may have to wake up a bit earlier, but you might discover that you prefer it instead. Having your exercise clothes and sneakers prepped next to the bed can help put you in an exercise frame of mind for the morning.
10. Take A Walk Outside And Enjoy The Holiday Splendor
A 2017 study revealed that to keep the weight off, getting 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) a day can be just as effective as completing five 30-minute workouts each week.
Plus, colder weather can help us burn more calories than the same walk we take in the spring.
Walking can also:
As you can see, all that holiday shopping and running around can really pay off! To get extra steps in, to be sure to skip those elevators and escalators and always take the stairs. When it’s safe, you can also park a bit further from the entrance of the stores. And if you’re traveling for the holidays, exploring your destination can be a great way to have fun and get your steps in.
You can score a simple pedometer on Amazon for as little as $10 or try installing a step-tracking app on your phone.
11. Wear A Fitness Tracker
Wearing a fitness tracker can help motivate you to get moving and learn how much activity you’re actually getting each day. By tracking things like calories, steps, heart-rate, sleep, and more, fitness trackers are a wonderful tool to help you reach your fitness goals. The “smart” ones can also sync with other health and activity tracking apps on your smartphone with Bluetooth.
12. Take Part In A Holiday-Themed Run Or Walk
Signing up for a running event like a 5k can keep you motivated to keep training while also doing good for charity. If you’re not in shape enough to do a race by the holidays, consider starting with a Couch To 5k Training plan. This can help keep your body active while setting you up for fitness success in the new year. If you’re not into running, there are many holiday walk events as well.