Racing through Macy’s with the latest coupon coup; waiting in check-out lines, arms laden packages; perspiring not by the dreamy fire but at the class party where kids’ excitement heats up the temp, along with your holiday turtleneck. Although cardiovascular and aerobic in their physical nature, these activities should not replace a healthy workout.
Just because your heart rate is increased and you find yourself in a sweat, does not mean you are achieving the benefits of exercise. The above scenarios actually stress your body, even if they burn a calorie or two. Often the stress hormone cortisol is released, producing a compromised immune system and a bleak mental outlook. Who needs that during the “happiest season of all”?
Now More Than Ever, Make Time for Fitness
Defend yourself against the season’s rushed pace with its associated sniffles, sneezes, and coughs. Even Santa knows that exercise is the best preventative medicine. When your world relies on you to make the season bright, take action. Research indicates that moderate exercise on most days of the week results in half the sick time. Additionally, when exercisers do succumb to the inevitable virus, they frequently suffer milder symptoms with a quicker recovery. No vitamin, supplement, or probiotic has this impressive track record.
According to studies, moderate exercise on a frequent basis enhances immune responses, which extends to a three-hour flooding of natural cells that help find and kill viruses. Perhaps before you head to that next soiree, you should stop at the Center for a little immune-boosting. For long-term protection, regular exercise counters inflammation, the cause of many chronic diseases. Consider your workout an investment in your body’s future.
Despite our best attempts at a healthy lifestyle, sometimes our defenses surrender to a cold or flu. It’s usually safe to continue with your exercise program if symptoms are cold-like and don’t include a fever. However, fevers, stomach viruses, and infections require time off. Pace yourself throughout and follow your body’s indicators. One can usually tell the difference between the body’s need for rest and the mind’s need for motivation, in other words, real fatigue versus excuses.
During a minor cold or when returning from “sick leave,” don’t overexert yourself. Consider a low-impact Group Fitness class, a walk on the treadmill, or an easy cycle ride. With trips to the Center remaining on your agenda, you’ll keep the momentum going, regardless of how light you take it. It will be easier to return to your regular exercise routine once you’re well. And, if you’re an exerciser, that should be sooner rather than later.
In addition to improving your physical health, exercise is also a great stress reliever. A good workout leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Yoga and Pilates are two disciplines that excel in peacefully balancing the body-mind connection. While muscles are stretched and toned, negative energy is expelled. The mind is cleared. Kickboxing and weightlifting are a great outlet for tension, converting frustration (sold-out must-have gifts, anyone?) and anger (a turkey dinner gone bad?) to something productive.
Tips for a Season with Workouts
“Despite all that’s happening this time of year, you still need to take care of yourself,” shares member Christine Danelson. “Once you’re at the Center, it’s a lot of fun.” These are good words to remember when feeling overwhelmed by tasks on your to-do list. Christine advises hiring a personal trainer a couple times per week. “Appointments with a trainer help propel you. It’s a commitment on your calendar and the trainer’s. You aren’t likely to ignore it or put it off,” she says.
Some members actually “kick it up a notch” during the holiday season, increasing their visits to the Center. “You’ll be in trouble at the end of December, if you don’t,” indicates member Nancy Sherwin, referencing the tempting goodies that abound this time of year.
Nancy actually follows a specific holiday workout program to keep on track. This includes exercising at the Center at least five times per week to attend a minimum of four Group Fitness classes and time on the Exercise Floor. “I make time for extra calorie-burning cardio and weightlifting to keep in shape. Usually, I save the weekends for my gift shopping, wrapping, and holiday festivities, fitting in a walk for exercise.”
Member Robert Fair reminds us to make fitness goals a priority even over the holidays. “The only way to achieve a healthy lifestyle is to remain focused. Continue to participate in the Center’s programs and you’ll stay on target,” Robert assures. He looks forward to visiting with friends and family over the holidays. “Their reaction to how great I look now is my biggest motivator.” Of course, we all want to make a fabulous impression, especially on those who only see us this time of year.
Michael O’Shea, GetFit Now, “How to Ward off Winter Colds.” November 22, 2009.
Image credit (clock): Running out of Time, www.flickr.com/photos/32225523@N00/