The holiday season is in full swing! That usually means we fall out of our routines and into some habits we thought we had left behind. With food everywhere, parties, late nights, and lists of things to do – the opportunity for weight gain and a general sense of fatigue and the “blahs” is prevalent. There is a way to counteract those effects and still celebrate the holidays and enjoy all the cheer. It is within your reach and it is as simple as EXERCISE!
A little bit of exercise goes a long way! Talk about making you more productive during a season where we generally feel like we never have enough time to get everything done. A little hit of exercise will boost your energy level and allow you to fly through your lists! You will have a glow and not only look better, but feel better too! Make exercise a priority and you will be amazed by how good you feel!
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
The leading cause of health-related mortality for women and men in the United States is cardiovascular disease. Getting regular cardiovascular exercise (defined as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, three to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes) can reduce elevated blood pressure, lower total and (bad) LDL cholesterol and raise (good) HDL cholesterol. This reduces risk of heart attack and stroke.
Blood Sugar and Insulin
When we eat food containing carbohydrates, even healthy, unprocessed ones, blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas then releases insulin to move the glucose from the blood to the cells, where it is converted to energy. For people who have insulin sensitivity, prediabetes, or diabetes, the insulin cell receptors don’t work as well, which leaves a lot of insulin floating around the bloodstream. This causes the excess sugar in the blood to be converted into fat cells for storage. Exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin so that the glucose is taken out of the bloodstream and used for energy. Both cardio exercise and resistance training independently can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Exercising aids in weight management in two primary ways—the calories burned during exercise (both cardio and resistance training) contribute to a calorie deficit and, when combined with a proper diet, can promote weight loss or weight maintenance. Resistance training creates more metabolically active muscle tissue, which can increase basal metabolic rate so that the body actually burns more calories in a 24-hour period.
Mood and Self-esteem
Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise can positively affect mood by decreasing tension, stress and anxiety (which seem to increase during the holidays), and increasing positive mood feelings. Exercise has also been shown to boost self-esteem and body-image confidence.
SOME OF THE BEST WAYS TO EXERCISE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
The type of exercise you do can either make you hungrier or help to control your appetite. A high-intensity (anaerobic) workout depletes glycogen stores, leaving you feeling hungrier, especially for sugar-rich carbs, but a moderate-intensity aerobic workout, which uses more body fat for fuel and spares some of the glycogen, will leave you feeling energized but not starving. Moderate intensities with slow and controlled movements using muscles synergistically and through all planes will provide for a challenging workout and cause micro-tears in the muscles. The calorie burn takes place when the body repairs those mirco-tears. It takes both stored energy and good food to help in the repair process. The post-workout holiday meal is an excellent chance for those macros (especially protein and good carbs) to be utilized for the muscle repair. It is a win-win!
Exercise before your big holiday meal can help prevent unwanted weight gain. When eating your meal, try not to sabotage the exercise you did with too many unwanted calories! Traditions and food are great, but it is really about the memories created with loved ones that will last! And if you enjoy a little too much, keep drinking water and plan an afternoon or evening walk! Throughout the holidays if you can maintain the balance of exercise to good food to time spent with family and friends, you will stay healthy and free from the traditional weight gain associated with this time of year!