Article by Chris Zellers, MPP -Assistant Professor/Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences Department, published on November 29, 2022
Its that time of year again, time for celebrating the holidays, being with friends and family and rushing to fit everything in. One part of the regular routine that is often overlooked during the hectic holiday season is exercise. Physical activity is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle and it is recommended that adults participate in 150-300 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise each week with an additional two days of muscle strengthening activity. Regular movement supports a healthy weight and prevents or lessens the effects of various chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Physical activity has also been shown to improve mood, delay brain degeneration and improve arthritis symptoms. Making movement a priority all year long is important, even during the busy holiday season.
Finding time to exercise is often why people don’t move enough and since the holidays seem to make time even more fleeting. Lack of time is certainly a valid reason and that is why the Department of Health and Human Services is promoting the Move Your Way campaign. To support Americans being less sedentary and move more for chronic disease prevention, this campaign recommendations moving when you can. When doing a moderate exercise, the recommendation is to move for at least 10 minutes, but vigorous exercise can be for shorter bouts of time. If fitting in a half hour work out in one day is too much of a time commitment, then try breaking it up into 3-ten-minute sessions during the day. Try designating times in the beginning of the day to be sure to fit movement in throughout the day. For instance, instead of driving to an errand try walking, take a quick walk at lunch time or after dinner do some stretching and squeeze in weight bearing exercises for ten minutes as soon as you get up in the morning. The Move Your Way campaign is trying to take the stigma of exercise away and make physical activity easy for everyone to do.
Physical activity is harder to do during the holidays when extra demands of preparing for the holidays use up more valuable time, but that doesn’t mean you should skip that exercise. In a small study published in Pub Med Central it was found that inactivity during the holidays led to weight gain and increased blood pressure. Two groups were followed, the first group kept exercising during the holidays while the other group discontinued exercise during the holidays. The study found that the group who maintained exercise levels also maintained their weight, and prevented increase in blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity. However, the group who discontinued exercise during the holiday period had an increase in weight and blood pressure showing that even a small interruption in exercise had a negative impact on the body. While this study was small it does support continued movement during the holidays. If time is even shorter than usual try to squeeze in 10-minute sessions of physical activity to stay on track with all of those holidays errand and preparations, come 2023 you will be glad you did!