‘Tis the season to be merry! But with all the shopping, holiday parties, lack of sleep, and family pressures this season bestows us, we all run the risk of stress outshining the joy of the Holidays.
How can you reduce or at least manage your holiday stress levels? By taking a step back, slowing down and making the time to focus on giving the gift of fitness to ourselves. If we take care of ourselves, it will be much easier to care for and give to others, and isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
Start by putting you at the top of your giving list by scheduling time amidst the hustle and bustle to get some exercise. Here are some reasons why:
You will be more jolly!
Seriously, exercise will make you happier. It’s a scientific fact. Exercise stimulates your brain’s pituitary gland to release endorphins, your very own—and entirely legal—natural morphine, which will boost your mood and give you more energy when released.
How much exercise is needed to feel this “high”? According to Robert G. McMurray of the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill, all you have to do is 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at 80% of your capacity.
The simple act of a repetitive motion, whether walking, running, taking a group exercise class, doing yoga or lifting weights will create a mini-meditation session which allows you to relax your brain, refocus and helps to release emotional tension as well.
A better night’s sleep!
Everything about the holidays sabotages our sleep so how can you make the most of the shut eye time you have —exercise, of course. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep patterns, which, the Mayo Clinic reminds, helps you to cope better with stress, depression and anxiety. Not only are sleep patterns improved, but more and better sleep affects our nightly hormones which aid in weight loss.
Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin. More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.
You’ll stay healthier!
Stress compromises your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu. Being sick during the holidays causes us to be more stressed and frustrated thus furthering the cycle.
Exercise can combat stress by making you happier (remember the endorphin high) and healthier. Plus stay happy and healthy with exercise and you save yourself time and money at the doctor’s office, which means more time and money for holiday shopping.
Did I mention extra energy?
How often do we look to coffee, soda, an energy drink or anything for boost? Put on workout clothing and get moving instead – especially done in the morning – you’ll have energy, focus to get through your day and all of the joys of the season. In fact, research suggests regular exercise can increase energy levels even among those suffering from chronic medical conditions.
Because you are worth it!
You will feel refreshed and more focused, which results in getting more done. Plus, exercise helps boost self-confidence levels. Let’s face it, many slip off their nutrition plans this time of year with extra cookies or more drinks than usual, and a few minutes to an hour of exercise staves off feelings of depression and helps those watching their waistlines to feel more confident and in control.
Get Started Today!
Schedule exercise in your day, find a workout buddy, check out your local health club and try something new. Put exercise at the top of your wish list and gift yourself a positive attitude, restful sleep, self-confidence, better health and more energy. A perfect way to manage the stress of the season and start your New Year with a new you! Happy Holidays!
Jane Dias is Co-owner of Lake Park Swim & Fitness.