On the Move for the Holidays

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It’s that time of year again!
The word “holidays” signifies weight gain for many people. After all, it’s been drilled into us that come Thanksgiving (actually, Halloween), we start packing on the pounds (at least 5) until New Year’s Day, when we dutifully sign up for a gym membership that we rarely end up using.

Sound familiar? Well, the good news is that most of us really don’t gain that much weight. Weight gain is more like one pound (give or take a few). But before you sigh with relief, realize that that one pound is very unlikely to come off. So, if you gain one pound every holiday season, in ten years, you’ll be ten pounds heavier (and that’s not counting other weight that you may have gained throughout the year).

Holidays can also cause some anxiety for people with diabetes. What do you eat? WHEN do you eat? Can you drink alcohol? What if you have low blood glucose at the office holiday party? These are common concerns, but they’re all manageable. It helps to talk with a diabetes educator or a dietitian BEFORE the holidays strike so that you have a game plan and know how to deal with these situations.

Physical activity is your best friend
Holiday shopping, cooking, dinners, concerts, and parties mean that there’s little time to do other things, like, for instance, stay active. Getting to the gym, going for a walk at lunch, or popping in your exercise DVD tend to fall by the wayside; other things seem to take priority. But ironically, it’s these very actions that can keep you from gaining weight, keep your blood glucose (and blood pressure and cholesterol) from creeping up, and keep stress at bay.

The goal for people with diabetes is to aim for 150 minutes of physical activity weekly, or 30 minutes at least five days a week. However, many of us perceive this to be a challenge. Who has the time, on top of working, taking care of family, shopping, cleaning, cooking…? But as the saying goes, “If you don’t make time for exercise, you must make time for illness.”

Change your mindset
A lot of us suffer from the “all or nothing” syndrome. I’m guilty of this. If I can’t spend a certain amount of time on the treadmill, for example, I’m likely to tell myself to not even bother. How many of you feel this way? Part of this “syndrome” is that it’s drilled into us to get those 150 minutes in each week. That may not always be possible or even doable, so the tendency is to tell yourself that it’s useless to even try.

Break yourself from this way of thinking. Every little bit truly counts. Researchers have found that walking for just 15 minutes each day reduces your risk of death by 14%, compared to folks who do little or no physical activity. And the same amount of physical activity can help to bring down high blood glucose levels (especially after indulging in a few too many holiday cookies). Plus, moving around is a good way to give yourself a boost of energy and help alleviate any stress or tension (which often goes hand in hand with the holidays).

What you can do
Think about everything that you do on a daily basis: eat your meals, brush your teeth, check your blood glucose, go to work…and add physical activity to the list. Make it a given that it’s just something that you do, without even really thinking about it. You don’t have to traipse off to the gym (unless you want to). Wherever you are, you can move, and that’s your goal. Here’s what you can try:

Climb stairs. They’re pretty much everywhere. A lot of athletes train by running up and down stairs. You don’t need to run, but why not use them? You’ll burn roughly 5–9 calories per minute of climbing. You’ll tone your muscles and strengthen your bones, and you’ll give your heart and lungs a good workout, too.

Get on the ball. Stuck at your desk all day? No problem. Switch out your chair for an exercise ball. Exercise, or stability, balls have started to replace desk chairs in many offices. Sitting on one helps to strengthen your core muscles (found in your abdomen, back, and legs). There are also other types of exercises you can do using a ball to help tone your entire body.

Try kettlebells. Kettlebells are weights that have a handle on the top and a rounded base. You use one weight at a time and you can work many muscles at the same time, combining cardio and strength training in the same workout (very efficient!). Again, do an Internet search for specific exercises that you can try or check out YouTube for how-to videos. Why not pick up a pair and use them while watching television?

Join the resistance (band). Resistance bands have become quite popular. You can use them anywhere, anytime. If you’re traveling, throw one in your suitcase. You can get a whole body workout just by using a band. Some bands come with handles, and they also come in different tension levels. Check out this Web site for ways to use resistance bands.

Finally, knowing that the holiday season is a season of gift-giving, why not ask for the gift of fitness? Ask for a gym membership, equipment (like kettlebells or an exercise ball), or even a few sessions with a personal trainer. Better yet, treat yourself right and give yourself the gift of fitness. Your health is the gift that keeps on giving!

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