In a few weeks, about 45 percent of American adults will make New Year’s resolutions such as getting fit and eating better, according to University of Scranton research, and many will make those commitments with guilt after doing too much eating and too little exercise over the holidays.
While Santa is a welcomed presence at holiday celebrations, most people try to avoid a Santa-like physique. That means staying active and being mindful of food choices and overeating during the holidays to prevent unwanted pounds, and ward off stress and depression. Following are five things to consider in the final few weeks of 2014:
- Finish strong to start strong. Binge eating and sedentary living in the final weeks of the year set people up for failure once Jan. 1 arrives. Commit now to doing some exercise and reducing excessive fat, salt and sugar. Research shows that it takes about 60 days for an activity to become a habit, so starting now will reinforce good workout and eating habits by Jan. 1.
- Avoid the rush. Gyms become remarkably empty at the end of the year and packed the first months of the New Year. Newbies interested in finding their way around a gym can ask for a free tour in a non-crowded, low-pressure environment, or negotiate for better personal training or gym rates in December before the New Year’s rush. Gym memberships also are a great personal gift or a gift for someone else.
- First steps. People who haven’t exercised regularly should work slowly back into a fitness routine. Commit to brisk walking or other cardiovascular activity for at least 30 minutes, five days a week in the next month, as well as at least three 30-minute sessions per week of resistance strength training that challenges all major muscle groups. This can be achieved at home through push-ups, non-weighted lunges and other weight-bearing exercises.
- The sweet escape. Reduce sugary drink consumption by 50 percent in the last days of the year – and even more into the New Year. A 12-ounce can of soda contains 16 sugar cubes and “empty calories,” a precursor for obesity. Also, beware of holiday drinks with eggnog, which can contain up to 20 grams of fat per serving, almost as much as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese (26 grams).
- Gifts that keep on giving. Low-cost holiday gifts that encourage movement are now available for purchase at sporting goods stores and large retailers, including mats, kettlebells, dumbbells, exercise bands, and exercise and stability balls. Techies can find electronic games that encourage movement, such as sports simulation or dance. “Old school” standbys like bikes, skates or sports equipment like footballs and volleyballs also encourage movement.