As the holiday season ramps up, daily schedules can easily fill with the demands of the season, like shopping, cooking, wrapping and planning.
To avoid overload, it’s all too easy to shift self-care priorities — like regular exercise — to the bottom of the list. Skipping workouts, however, can actually make it more difficult for our bodies and minds to deal with added holiday stressors.
Instead of letting exercise slide, taking a less-is-more approach to working out will enable you to avoid schedule overload without sacrificing your health. By training smarter, not longer, you can increase time available for holiday to-dos while still decreasing the impact of seasonal treats on the waistline. This plan will also help reduce stress and safeguard your overall well-being.
Use habit stacking to add more daily exercise
One of the best ways to train smarter, not harder, in this busy time of year is to ensure you’re exercising consistently at least a few minutes every day by making it a habit. And one of the most effective ways to create a daily habit that sticks is to stack it on an existing one.
Consider some of common everyday habits that are so ingrained in your routine, you automatically do them, such as brushing your teeth, showering and making your bed. By adding an exercise right before, during or directly after one of those habits, it’s easier to make it stick in your daily routine. For example, for nearly eight years now, I’ve been doing 50 body-weight squats or two-minute wall sits while I brush my teeth.
Multitask your mobile screen time
Although spending time on your smartphone might seem like a habit, it’s usually more of a time waster that happens sporadically throughout the day rather than a natural part of a daily routine. And leading up to the holidays, many people experience an increase in mobile screen time. Whether people are online shopping, answering texts or scrolling social media to keep up with friends’ holiday plans, many folks inevitably spend a significant chunk of the day looking down at their phones.
What if you could make even a fraction of that time better for your health? And maybe even dissuade yourself from spending so much time looking at your phone? You can — by incorporating posture-improving, core and leg-strengthening wall sits in your smartphone time.
By design, wall sits are challenging. So, even though they’re good for you, you aren’t going to want to hold them for very long or do very many sets. So if you pair them with your smartphone time, you’ll likely reduce your scrolling minutes just to avoid them — which isn’t a bad thing for your mental health.
Squeeze in a 4-minute high-intensity workout
Even at the height of the holiday bustle, strive to find four minutes to exercise a few times per week. And less really is more with high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. Studies have shown that HIIT can burn 25% to 30% more calories in a shorter amount of time than other forms of exercise while also being effective at decreasing visceral (or belly) fat without dietary changes.
So, if you’re up to the challenge of maintaining periods of elevated heart rate alternated with short recovery periods, four-minute Tabata-style HIIT workouts could be your time-efficient recipe for staying fit over the holidays.
Tabata drills, created by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, consist of the same exercise performed through eight rounds of 20 seconds of activity and 10 seconds of rest for a total of four minutes. You can use almost any body-weight exercise, but I recommend selecting one that requires a total-body effort and fits your current fitness level and preference.For instance, mountain climbers and jumping jacks are two very different, yet effective, total-body exercises. Because I prefer a more intense, core-oriented challenge with this drill, I use mountain climbers.
Make time to de-stress and recover
Despite all their splendor, the holidays take a toll on both our mental and physical health. Family demands like shopping and cooking and indulgences such as increased intake of high-fat, high-sugar treats and alcohol consumption deliver stressors of all types. And the shorter, darker days of winter make it even harder on some.
To recover from this onslaught of stress, it’s important to get adequate sleep and take intentional mental and physical energy breaks. Prioritizing recovery is important all the time but especially during the holidays. Consequently, this is one area where less is not more — more is more.
Medical reference: CNN Health