By: Nicole L. Koontz—
Muncie, Indiana—It’s that time of year again. Over the next few weeks, we will strive to wear the perfect outfit, select a perfect gift and host the perfect holiday party. While it’s a festive time, many of us get perfectly stressed out.
And the thought of exercising goes right out the window. Instead, we promise to start or restart the first day of the new year. In that instant, we surrender to mounds of food and drink, fail to get enough rest and slog through December.
Instead of giving up, we can take a few simple steps to manage stress and keep ourselves healthy.
First, let’s set some goals by being SMART, which stands for specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive. Write your goals down, but remember that we cannot change our habits or bodies overnight.
Then get moving. That’s the simplest way to reduce those stress levels and improve health. In the world of exercise, it’s called physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine defines this as any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscles that results in a substantial increase in caloric requirements.
What does physical activity look like? Anything that gets you moving. It is completing activities of daily living, like cleaning the house, working in the yard or taking a walk with the family, friends or the dog.
Remember, you always can borrow a dog. They love walks. Just ask one.
Exercise doesn’t require a lot of time. New physical activity guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services recommend at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity a week — or about 22 minutes daily.
Another key to surviving the holiday season is to eat in moderation. Consuming mass quantities of turkey, cakes, pies and alcohol is a guarantee of packing on unwanted pounds. Another way to cut calories is to reduce consumption of sugary drinks. One can of soda, which may have 150 calories, can be replaced with water—something the body desperately needs.
So, some of the keys to surviving the holiday season include daily physical activity, eating in moderation and setting achievable goals. I recommend apps or websites such as My Fitness Pal or FitDay.com to track what you eat and the calories you burn. Don’t forget to take before and after pictures.
Finally, write down why you are making these changes now before the start of the year. This way, you can start the new year off right so you feel better going into 2019.
You can do it! You have to put your mind in place first and your body will follow. I wish you the very best on your journey to a new you.
Nicole L. Koontz is the associate director of the Adult Physical Fitness Program at Ball State University, assistant lecturer of exercise science and the operations director of the Healthy Lifestyle Center.