Enjoy the holiday season without sacrificing fitness

Enjoy the holiday season without sacrificing fitness

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BLOOMINGTON — There’s a new game in town and its goal is nothing less than helping you to enjoy the next five weeks.

Call it the holiday squeeze play.

Here’s how it works: Beginning today and continuing each day through New Year’s Day — even as you are busy with holiday preparations, gatherings, volunteering and travel, as well as your regular work and household responsibilities — squeeze in at least 15 minutes of exercise a day.

You can do it.

The advice comes from Central Illinois health and fitness professionals, who would prefer that people start or maintain an exercise program amid the busyness of the holiday season. But they realize that’s unrealistic as even dedicated Central Illinois exercisers can’t always keep up their routines between Black Friday and New Year’s Day.

So, when you can’t do an entire workout, “go for the 15,” said Allison Wholf, wellness specialist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Normal. Advocating the same approach were Erin Kennedy, director of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center’s Center for Healthy Lifestyles, and Mike Trotter, lead fitness director at Gold’s Gym.

Here’s what they mean: Each day, find at least 15 minutes for dedicated exercise.

“Squeezing in 15 minutes of exercise a day is better than no exercise at all,” Kennedy said.

The goal is to get your heart rate up.

Here are examples from Kennedy, Trotter and Wholf of simple, 15-minute mini-workouts that can be done as breaks during even the busiest of days:

- Walk up and down the stairs at home, work or the store.

- Do squats (using a chair for support), jumping jacks, situps, crunches, lunges or other simple callisthenics.

- Go for a brisk walk or jog around your neighborhood or a brisk walk around your workplace or in the shopping mall. Take a friend or family member with you.

- Put in an exercise DVD and do just 15 minutes. Or, check out whether your cable company offers a fitness channel and exercise with the people on television for 15 minutes. If you have a stationary bike at home, jump on for 15 minutes.

- If you are driving by your fitness center and don’t have time for a full workout, slip inside and go for a brisk walk or jog on a treadmill or swim for 15 minutes.

“It’s about keeping your body moving,” Trotter said. “Even a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. They may seem miniscule but they help.”

“Any little bit that gets you up and gets the blood flowing can be good for the cardiovascular system and can reduce stress during a stressful time of year,” Wholf said.

For people who counter that they already are busy shopping, cleaning house or cooking, here’s good and bad news from Kennedy:

“You’re being physically active, and for that you deserve a high-five,” she said. “But what our bodies need is exercise — intentional physical activity that increases our heart rate safely for at least 15 minutes.”

Increasing the heart rate at least 15 minutes a day reduces stress, increases energy to help us with our activities for the rest of the day, releases endorphins so we feel happy and are more pleasant to be around, reduces blood pressure, burns glucose to help manage blood sugar and helps to control weight.

“One key to a happy holiday is exercise,” Kennedy said.


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