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The importance of exercising through the holiday season

Thanksgiving is behind us, and Christmas is right around the corner. Why is exercising through the holiday season so important?

Exercising doesn’t only benefit the mind — it can also prevent all kinds of health issues. Typically, the closer we get to the holiday season the more people fall out of their exercise routine. And many will “start” again after the holidays.

It finally got colder again and the days are getting shorter. Clothes are getting thicker and warmer, and we are no longer stared in the face by the saggy legs, flabby arms and “Jell-o abs.” It’s all covered up! And no, this does not pertain to everyone. There are miracle clothes that make your butt lift, your belly tuck and your bra strap “fold” disappear. Many aids are available to appear to be in shape. My first and foremost priority is health; I have seen very unhealthy people who are “in shape.” I have also seen very healthy people who don’t fit the “in shape” profile.

My goal is to get people healthy and to stay active throughout the holiday season. I promise you, you will be so happy you did! Here are some reasons why you should stay active through the holiday season and throughout the year.

• You will control your weight better.

• You can handle holiday stress better.

• Exercise does not only help fight depression but also anxiety.

• Wards off disease. Research has shown that people who exercise are sick less than people who do not.

• Prevent heart disease. Exercise at least 3 to 4 times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. It doesn’t have to be a crazy workout. Research at Duke suggest the amount of physical activity rather than the intensity (which turns many people off exercising because it hurts too much or they get hurt) has the biggest impact on lowering cholesterol.

• Being active reduces your risk of having a stroke. Moderate to active participants had a 20 percent less risk of stroke.

• Prevent or control Type II diabetes. This disease has increased tremendously over the years. Exercise can help with weight loss and assist in controlling or preventing type II diabetes. A study at Harvard showed that a brisk walk one hour a day can reduce your risk by 34 percent.

• Eliminate or control back pain. Muscle tone will keep the core strong and again take weight off. Reducing the belly helps take the pull off the lower back. And exercise helps your posture in general.

• Avoid and/or reverse osteoporosis/osteopenia with exercise. Any weight-bearing exercises will help strengthen the bones. In my experience, a cardio program supplemented with a weightlifting program is the key to success.

So now that we know why we should exercise, here are some tips to stay active throughout the holiday season.

• Plan your workouts. If you know parties or get-togethers are coming up, plan your workout schedule around them. The more you plan, the greater your success.

• Find a workout buddy, just make sure they are as serious in continuing to exercise as you are.

• Find classes you can attend. At our JF Hurley YMCA, we have more than 80 land group exercise classes and more than 35 water group exercise classes. We already started a new class called POUND. With drum sticks, you exercise with awesome music, drumming like you are in a rock band! Amazing workout for the whole body and lots of calories are burned during the workout. Not only do you get a great workout going to a class, you build relationships not only with the participants but also the teachers. Another great motivator to keep coming back!

• Record your activities. There are tons of apps that can help you with that and are easy to use and there is nothing wrong with a pen and notebook to keep your activity level in check. Check out our new Functional Training app at your app store. FTC Rowan County YMCA and it’s free.

Our first Holiday Fest is coming up this Wednesday at the YMCA where you can find some awesome gifts for your loved ones and maybe get a workout in while you are there!

Ester H Marsh Health & Fitness director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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