Healthy Holiday Tips That Won’t Leave You Feeling Deprived

Finding balance between your commitment to staying fit and well, reality, is tough and it only gets tougher in the holiday season. Close quarters and cold weather challenge our immune systems and unrestricted family time presents its own challenges to our mental health, not to mention the dinner table and the threat it poses to undoing our efforts to eat right and exercise. Here are six tips to stay on track this holiday season and beyond.

Have a good breakfast. While it’s tempting to skip breakfast to offset the damage of the feast to come, doing so sets up a cycle of plummeting blood sugar that leaves you likely to skip your workout, head into the festivities feeling cranky and unlikely to enjoy the party, and ready to put anything into your mouth to hold you over until dinner. Start your morning right with a protein-heavy meal that will hold you for hours to come. Including eggs in your breakfast is a great bet to support weight loss (or maintenance) and a healthy immune system. For just 70 calories per egg, you invest in a high nutrient food that is likely to leave you eating less throughout the day (as much as 400 calories less according to one study)!  You can offset the calories by including a quick workout that will rev up your metabolism and your mood for the rest of the morning.

Squeeze in a morning workout. You’ve already taken a big step towards making your daily workouts convenient and accessible through investing in your home fitness equipment. On days that you’re pressed for time, use your treadmill, elliptical or recumbent bike for a quality workout that packs a big impact in a short period of time. A High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session is approachable for all fitness levels and will rev up your metabolism and improve your blood sugar in as little as ten minutes (though if you can go for 20 that’s even better). Start out with a short warm-up of 2-5 minutes, then alternate between period of maximum effort (45-90 seconds) and recovery (1-2 minutes). The shorter the recovery period and the longer the intervals, the tougher your training session, so base your approach on your fitness level.  Finish your workout with 2-5 minutes of recovery and enjoy the bragging rights that workout gives you at the day’s festivities.

Practice gratitude. From lowering your blood pressure to improving your mental health, the benefits of gratitude go far beyond lip service. As you head into potentially stressful days, take the time to really recognize the abundance that exists in your daily life. If you have the time, you can even complete this gratitude exercise and see the difference that bringing appreciation into your morning creates throughout the day.

Make plans. Even though family events and a full house can bring their share of stress, they might also be good for you in the long run. Research shows that strong social connections lead to happier, longer lives. Steer clear of those you know set you off and take the opportunity to really connect with someone you care about, whether that’s in person or taking the time to call or send a card. Including the right people in your life can also be a great opportunity to boost your commitment to a healthy lifestyle through supporting your diet and exercise plans.

Get outside. While you’re enjoying your social connections, why not grab your favorite cousin or sibling and head outside? Not only does this give you the chance to create some memories, you can also ditch family members who might be less than supportive of your healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for you.  You’ll also receive benefits ranging from strengthened immunity, a healthy dose of Vitamin D (harder to come by at this dark time of year) and improved concentration (just the thing for cleaning up at the post-feast card game).

Enjoy your meal. Sure, the holiday table spread is loaded with caloric nightmares that start with butter and end with whipped cream, however, there are some seriously nutrient-dense choices that grace every traditional table as well. Enjoy your turkey, even the dark meat. Loaded with protein and iron, it’s filled with the stuff you need to build muscle and recover from your tough workouts. Whether you take them baked, in a casserole, or in pie form, enjoy your sweet potatoes and squash. They’re packed with beta carotene that can strengthen your resistance to the cold someone inevitably brought to the party, and maybe even help you to fight off cancer in the long run.

Wishing you a healthy holiday season!

Should I Exercise When I Have a Cold?

If you’re dedicated to your fitness routine or hit the gym on a consistent basis, coming down with a cold may be enough to derail your workouts indefinitely. But do you really need to abandon the exercise ship at the first sign of some sniffling or sinus congestion? Before you throw in the towel, consider these tips when choosing to exercise with a cold.

Find out what kind of illness you have

First, it is important that you determine whether you have a cold or the flu. A cold is considered to present symptoms above the neck only. If you experience symptoms such as fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches and/or swollen lymph glands, you more likely have the flu and your immune system will need all the energy it can get to do its job. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is recommended that you wait two to four weeks prior to performing any form of intense exercise. If you are not sure if you have the flu or a cold, consult your physician.

According to both ACE (American Council on Exercise) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), it is fine to perform moderate intensity exercise while suffering from a cold. Studies are cited to indicate that moderate intense exercise temporarily boosts your immune system by 50 to 300 percent. And, when not already ill, exercise reduces your chances of catching a cold. Prevention is the best medicine after all.

Exercise with caution

If you decide to take on a moderate exercise routine while dealing with a cold, be sure you stop immediately if you experience coughing, wheezing or an increase in congestion. Although it does seem to be OK to take on moderate exercise when you have a cold, there is no apparent effect on the duration or severity of the common cold. Doing some light exercise may just make you feel better psychologically in knowing that you are taking steps to minimize the setbacks being down with a cold could have on your physical fitness.

Sources

http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/exerciseandcommoncold.pdf http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=2613&category=4