Frazzled by the Holidays? Experts Offer Tips to Combat Stress and Stay Healthy

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Hectic holidays derail the best fitness plans--but exercise provides relief from holiday-related anxiety for those who sneak it into their schedules. Brad Schoenfeld, author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect (Human Kinetics, 2008) agrees. "Exercise can be an excellent form of stress management," Schoenfeld explains. "By providing an outlet for your emotions, exercise helps to deflect external stresses."

Hectic holidays derail the best fitness plans--but exercise provides relief from holiday-related anxiety for those who sneak it into their schedules. Brad Schoenfeld, author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect (Human Kinetics, 2008) agrees. "Exercise can be an excellent form of stress management," Schoenfeld explains. "By providing an outlet for your emotions, exercise helps to deflect external stresses."

But holiday travel and relatives' buffet tables tend to spoil exercise intensions. Schoenfeld and others provide a few travel friendly activities to reduce stress and be healthy during the holidays:

  • Split up your cardio. Three 10-minute sessions have been shown to be just as effective as one 30-minute session, Schoenfeld says. Try to squeeze in 10 minutes when you get up, 10 minutes between errands, and 10 minutes before winding down for the day.
  • Take exercise outdoors. Take a break from the hustle and bustle indoors and enjoy a quick workout outdoors. Courtenay and Doug Shurman, authors of The Outdoor Athlete (Human Kinetics, 2009) suggest heading to the local park with the kids or the dog for some exercise. "Play a game of 'keep away' with the dog, or take a walk with the whole family so everyone benefits from the outing," says Courtenay Schurman.
  • Run off steam in intervals. Running offers an easy form of exercise that can be done anywhere. For those with limited time while traveling, Sam Murphy, author or Running Well (Human Kinetics, 2009) recommends interval training, mixing bouts of speed with slower-paced running or even rest breaks. "The beauty of this type of training is it enables you to put in a lot of high-quality, fast-paced running without feeling either physically or mentally exhausted," Murphy explains.
  • Release tension with strength bands. Weights are cumbersome for travel, so Phil Page and Todd Ellenbecker, authors of Strength Band Training (Human Kinetics, 2005), advise using portable strength bands to get a quick full body workout. "Strength bands are a great way to continue balance and core training while on the road without the need for exercise machines," Paige explains.
  • Take a dip in the pool. If holiday travel includes a hotel stay, try walking, running or doing other traditional exercises in the pool. MaryBeth Pappas-Baun, author of Fantastic Water Workouts (Human Kinetics, 2008) says water invigorates you and exercise can be more fun in the water. "The cooling effects and supportive buoyancy of water make exercise and stretches feel deceptively easy," Pappas-Baun says. "But, the high resistance of water enhances toning, strength building and calorie burning."
  • De-stress with relaxation breathing. Breathing exercises are a great way to relax the body. Beth Shaw, author of Beth Shaw's YogaFit (Human Kinetics, 2009) recommends practicing relaxation breathing to clear the mind of the day's stress and refresh the body. "The breath is the most powerful tool we have to calm and relax our bodies," Shaw says.

The traditionally expected holiday weight gain also adds to stress and negative self-image, but Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, author of Eating on the Run (Human Kinetics, 2004) says weight gain can easily be avoided. She explains that the philosophy of feasting during the holidays and dieting afterwards increases the chance of weight gain. Instead, Tribole suggests allowing holiday food in moderation while maintaining a regular exercise program. "It's okay to treat yourself during the holidays! Just remember a little bite can go a long way," she says.     

For more information on any of these ideas, contact Human Kinetics at 800-747-4457 or visit http://www.HumanKinetics.com.

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