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Well and Good: Staying Healthy Through The Holidays

Late nights, extra desserts, days that get too busy to get to the gym – no wonder a lot of us end up rundown, lethargic or even sick by the end of the holiday season. So how do you not just avoid gaining that holiday weight, but end up feeling refreshed and healthy by the time the New Year kicks in?

Fit in smaller workouts: If you just can’t get to that daily spin class – or if your gym has limited classes or hours during the holidays – try to be more active the rest of the day. Take the dog for an extra 15-minute walk, or get up 30 minutes early and do a light yoga workout or some calisthenics, before everyone else is up.

Walk more: Again, if you’re not keeping up with your fitness routine, try to simply walk an extra few thousand steps each day. (A couple trips around the mall should do it.) You don’t even have to run out and buy a pedometer to keep track. You can now download several good ones – some of them free – onto your smart phone. Aim for at least 10,000 steps daily – 15,000 if you are normally a runner or very active.

Catch your zzzzs. Sleep may be the thing you’re most tempted to give up when you’re overloaded. Don’t. Many experts now think that sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, perhaps because lack of sleep affects the hormones that control hunger. If the lack of sleep comes because you’re trying to do too much, try to let go: Buy some desserts instead of making everything, “hire” your kids to do the decorating and gift-wrapping, bring home a pizza or a salad for dinner instead of cooking on busy nights.

Encourage the family to get moving: Instead of settling in with visiting family members to watch a movie or play board games, encourage a sports afternoon. Flag football or Frisbee in the back yard, even a leisurely after-dinner stroll around the neighborhood; you’ll always feel better if you move more. Plus, just getting out of the house will prevent you from mindlessly grazing on candy, cookies and leftovers.

Give active gifts: As long as you think the recipient will appreciate it, think of gifts that encourage activity: A round or two of golf at a new course, a few classes at a Pilates studio, cute workout gear. Then invite yourself along!

Vitamins: Don’t forget your vitamins! When you’re eating a richer diet that’s out of the ordinary for you, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re getting the proper supplements.  If you don’t normally take a supplement, this is a good time to start.  At a minimum, you should be taking a good multi-vitamin with minerals; women, especially, should make sure their vitamin regimen includes calcium.

Moderation: Diet and fitness experts love to emphasize moderation in all things. But what does it mean? That you should allow yourself a piece of pie without beating yourself up, and that it’s not the end of the world if you skip the gym for a week or two. Set a date – maybe Dec. 26, maybe Jan. 2 – where you renounce the bad habits and commit yourself to getting back on track for good. Then go out and get merry.