Avoid holiday weight gain by adding regular exercise to your routine

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The holiday season can be a challenging time for those who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

From office parties to classic family get-togethers, it seems every event brings an endless array of delicious home-cooked dishes. It’s easy to see why so many Americans relinquish their commitments to eat smarter around the holidays. 

One of the best ways to fight off holiday meal regret is by exercising on a regular basis, said Alison Berg, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist.

“It’s much harder to lose weight than it is to prevent weight gain,” she said.

Making time for physical activity is often easier said than done. With lower temperatures and decreased daylight hours, the temptation to skip out on a good daily exercise session is tougher than ever.

Try avoiding the regret later by applying these recommended tips from UGA Extension today:

Work smarter, not harder. Don’t wait until the new year to set new goals for living healthier.

The No. 1 obstacle to regular exercise for many people is time.

“People have really hectic schedules, or they’re often going to visit family and friends, and exercise just isn’t at the top of their priority list,” Berg said.

If setting aside a full hour for exercise just doesn’t sound possible for you, try finding regular points in the day and use those breaks to get in a quick 10 or 15 minutes of activity. 

“Just doing a little bit can really help you not have as much to get rid of at the end of the holiday season,” Berg said. “Try to get additional physical activity when you’re on the go. If you can’t make a meaningful exercise session, try to make sure you’re getting in some extra steps.”

Berg suggests small measures, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. 

“If you go to one of those big-box retailers or a department store to do some shopping, before you get your cart or pick up your first item, do a lap around the perimeter of the store just to get those extra steps in before you start shopping,” she said.

Know your resources. For some people, getting to the gym for a daily workout can be too stressful or intimidating.

For others, hefty membership fees and the time spent getting to the nearest gym make it unattainable.

If that sounds like you, consider building a workout plan that can be done completely within the comfort of your home.

Many people mistakenly believe that exercising at home requires the purchase of bulky, often expensive, equipment, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“There are lots of apps now that can give you little 10-minute bursts of something you can do with your own body weight, or even just a quick cardiovascular workout that doesn’t require any equipment,” Berg said.

Don’t go it alone. Research has shown that having someone to hold you accountable for a goal will greatly increase your chances of success.

If you’re going to give at-home workouts a try, consider finding a family member or friend to hold you accountable for your progress.

If that doesn’t work, try finding an online trainer through one of the many apps available to download at little to no cost. You can also use the sharing function of these apps to share your progress on social media sites or in closed social media groups specific to that app to get virtual social support.

Another creative suggestion Berg offered is making better use of the holiday time you spend with people you typically don’t see.

Rather than sitting around in someone’s home to talk, try going on a walk together to catch up on life.

Avoid getting too “wrapped up.” If you decide to brave the weather to get in some physical activity, make sure your clothing choices don’t send you heading back home to change.

Be sure that your head, hands, and feet stay extra warm and covered. Rather than donning your thickest, warmest coat, try multiple thin layers of clothing that are easier to move in or remove if you start to get too warm.

Develop a healthy reward system. The greatest reward you can get from regular exercise is the benefit of living a healthier lifestyle, but if that’s not enough for you, consider adding another incentive.

Whether it’s a fun holiday activity on your next day off or just an extra serving of your grandma’s sweet potato casserole, make sure you maintain a good balance in choosing your reward.

There’s certainly no shortage of treats around the holiday season, but you can avoid the regret of overindulgence if you have a clear system in place to help you gauge what your hard work has earned you.

Ellen Hallman is a student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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