Everyone looks forward to the holidays for a change of pace and some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Much of this vacation time translates to preparing elaborate meals that are the centerpiece of holiday tradition, including special recipes and dishes that have been in our families for generations. There is something very comforting about these meals that bring us together like nothing else can.
After all the feasting, sampling and nibbling, it only seems natural to find the nearest La Z Boy and take a snooze. But there is a much better way to spend your afternoon instead of dozing on the couch. Before everyone disperses to sleep off all those extra carbohydrates, make an announcement that everyone is going outside to get some exercise. Just 30 minutes of physical activity will help keep weight under control, manage stress and create lasting family memories!
According to a Japanese study, a high-fat meal is not as harmful to your body if you exercise soon afterward. Even light exercise or light resistance training just one hour after eating can prevent a boost in triglycerides, lipids in the blood that are normally seen after eating fats. In fact, exercising after a meal reduces triglyceride levels even better than exercising before a meal. A high-fat diet is one of the risk factors for colon cancer because fats can increase inflammation in the colon. Reducing triglycerides in the blood can help reduce inflammation in the tissues of the colon and lower the risk of cell damage (Source: Live Science).
Exercise at the holidays may not sound like an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, but exercise helps improve digestion, boosts mood and enhances psychological well-being. Here are a few ideas to get your family moving at the holidays:
Go out for a walk
Walking is a low-impact activity and it can be customized in length and pace to accommodate any family. Whether you take a walk around your neighborhood or drive to the nearest high school track, you can burn calories and engage in meaningful conversation with your family members. Consider having a faster walking group for the children and teenagers and a slower walking group for little ones and older members of the family. Throughout the walk, family members can pick up the pace or slow down—depending on how stuffed their tummies feel!
Create a list of simple events that can be easily set up in your own backyard. Set up stations like a 50-yard dash, corn hole, discus (Frisbee throwing), or long jump. You could even make a wacky Olympics with events like crab walk, shoe flinging contest, three legged race, sack race, or egg toss. If you really want to go the extra mile, purchase trophies, certificates or prizes for the winners. But remember, everyone is a winner when they are moving their bodies!
Plan a fun family activity
Certain activities are only available seasonally, and the holidays are a perfect time to participate. Ice skating is an example of a fun, seasonal activity that does not even feel like exercise. If your family likes to sing, consider printing off some sheet music and doing some holiday caroling for your neighbors. It will put your neighbors in the holiday spirit and you will work off some of those additional cookie calories. If the weather outside is frightful, consider turning on some holiday music and having a family dance party!
Chores: Exercise with a purpose
Just the word “chores” sounds like such a drudgery. But working together as a group can make even the most boring job enjoyable. Raking leaves is a purposeful chore that can be a heap of fun. What kid (or adult) doesn’t love to jump into a big pile of leaves and hear that pleasant crunch? When all hands are on deck, your lawn will be raked in no time and you’ll have gotten some good exercise as well! If you’re fortunate enough to get some snow at the holidays, your family may need to shovel the driveway together to clear a path for cars to back out safely.
Holidays will never be the same when you add some motion and competition to your seasonal gatherings. The recommended amount of exercise to protect you from colon cancer is estimated to be between 30 and 60 minutes per day, which can go by very quickly when you are having fun with your loved ones. Get out and move your body this holiday season. You’ll feel more energized, have healthier digestion and create some new family traditions too!