By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople
This time of year, food is on everyone's minds, whether you're looking forward to your traditional holiday favorites, feeling nervous about all the calories, or a combination of both. Unfortunately, we are so consumed with consuming food during the holidays that we often forget about fitness. We skip the gym to go to the office potluck, and tell ourselves we'll run "tomorrow" while we enjoy our neighbor's holiday party food tonight. Fast forward a few weeks, and we wonder why our pants don't fit when we were "so good" about eating in moderation.
But as you know, it's not just what you do-or don't-eat that affects your weight. The calories you burn through physical activity and exercise also play an important factor. Athletes may eat several thousand calories every day (not just on a holiday), but they won't gain weight because they are extremely active. Now, I am not advocating a Michael Phelps diet and exercise plan for all of you, but I am using it to illustrate the point that you can eat more and indulge here and there without repercussion if you ramp up your physical activity. And the easiest way to do that is to move your feet before you eat. Make this your mantra for the last few weeks of 2012, and you'll keep holiday weight gain at bay. Hey, you may even lose a couple pounds by the New Year. Here's how.
Move your feet (exercise) before you eat (the extra holiday food).
Want to sample everything on the Christmas dinner table? Move your feet before you eat.
Planning to uncover your holiday spirit by baking cookies? Move your feet before you eat.
Heading back for a second slice of pie with whipped cream? Move your feet before you eat.
A little extra eating is common during the holidays, and there isn't anything unhealthy about that. But before you bite, think about what you'll do to make sure that food doesn't become a permanent part of your anatomy. That's where exercise comes in. Before you let your exercise excuses get the best of you this season, here are 6 of my best workouts and tips that you can use all December long.
- Treat a holiday like any other day. Fit people exercise regularly, whether they're traveling, celebrating a holiday, or even when they experience a curve ball that alters their plans. Exercise should happen no matter what day it is-especially if that day revolves around eating.
Plan ahead. I say "move your feet before you eat" for a reason. Do it first to get it out of the way and to prevent other excuses (such as food coma) from stopping you later. Look at your schedule, find time for fitness, and commit to it. Plan for workouts you can do while traveling, with limited time, or during cold weather.
Wake up early. You do it during the work week, and you can do it during the holidays, too. Most gyms are open limited hours on holidays, and if you wake up a little early, you can fit in a workout and still get dinner on the table on time.
Sign up for a race. There are some fun holiday runs and walks that will inspire you to get active before your celebrations begin. Sign up with friends or your whole family for a new holiday tradition that doesn't revolve around food.
Try my 30-Minute Holiday Workout! This oldie but goodie will target all of your major muscle groups and elevate your heart rate for extra calorie burning. Add intensity by mixing in jumping jacks, high knee jogging, squat thrusts and other simple cardio moves between each exercise. Print it off now and tote it with you wherever you go this holiday season!
- Plan calorie-burning activities. Moving your feet doesn't just have to mean working out. Plan for additional physical activity each day, such as an outdoor walk or hike after dinner, or volunteering at a food pantry to help those in need. Anything that gets you on your feet and moving is better than sitting, especially on a day of overindulgence.
SparkPeople Fitness Expert Nicole Nichols is an ACE-certified personal trainer and AFAA-certified group fitness instructor. You can learn more about Nicole and her workout DVDs here .