The holiday season is in full swing, which means more parties, more food and a greater chance that a few pounds might creep on. Fortunately, you have a secret weapon that will help your clients keep away the holiday blues (added pounds) and still enjoy the seasonal good cheer—exercise!
Making exercise a priority during the hectic holidays is the key to starting the New Year feeling healthy and happy. Even if your clients are short on time, something is better than nothing. Exercising before a big holiday meal offers the body numerous benefits and choosing the right kind of exercise can actually make it easier to control hunger during holiday meals.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
The leading cause of health-related mortality for women and men in the United States is cardiovascular disease. Getting regular cardiovascular exercise (defined as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, three to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes) can reduce elevated blood pressure, lower total and (bad) LDL cholesterol and raise (good) HDL cholesterol. This reduces risk of heart attack and stroke.
Blood Sugar and Insulin
When we eat food containing carbohydrates, even healthy, unprocessed ones, blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas then releases insulin to move the glucose from the blood to the cells, where it is converted to energy. For people who have insulin sensitivity, prediabetes, or diabetes, the insulin cell receptors don’t work as well, which leaves a lot of insulin floating around the bloodstream. This causes the excess sugar in the blood to be converted into fat cells for storage. Exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin so that the glucose is taken out of the bloodstream and used for energy. Both cardio exercise and resistance training independently can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Exercising aids in weight management in two primary ways—the calories burned during exercise (both cardio and resistance training) contribute to a calorie deficit and, when combined with a proper diet, can promote weight loss or weight maintenance. Resistance training creates more metabolically active muscle tissue, which can increase basal metabolic rate so that the body actually burns more calories in a 24-hour period.
Mood and Self-esteem
Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise can positively affect mood by decreasing tension, stress and anxiety (which seem to increase during the holidays), and increasing positive mood feelings. Exercise has also been shown to boost self-esteem and body-image confidence.
BEST FORMS OF EXERCISE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
If your clients know they’re going to be heading off to a big holiday meal after a workout, the kind of exercise they choose can actually increase their appetites. A high-intensity (anaerobic) workout depletes glycogen stores, leaving the exerciser feeling hungrier, especially for sugar-rich carbs. Instead, advise your clients to stick to a moderate-intensity aerobic workout, which uses more body fat for fuel and spares some of the glycogen, leaving them feeling energized but not starving. If they prefer to hit the weights, advised them to choose a lower to moderate-intensity level workout with longer rest periods between sets. Encourage them to choose a weight that they can complete two to four sets of eight to 15 reps, using slow, controlled movements and focusing on slowing down on the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement. This is a challenging workout, which will create microtears in the muscles worked. The post-workout holiday meal is an excellent chance for those macros (especially protein and good carbs) to be utilized for muscle repair.
Exercising before a big holiday meal can help prevent unwanted weight gain. Just be sure to urge your clients not to use exercise to justify a meal splurge. Tell them to enjoy the food, but also make sure to enjoy the people and take the opportunities to make some new memories. If they over-indulge, advise them not to dwell on it, but instead get right back to their regular, healthy eating ways, drink some more water and take a long walk. And make some more memories.