Keep Your Elf in Shape: How to Stay Active Over Winter Break

By Brittany Dingler '15, PHE 095b7caffaf8e19bff8e4afd17478e12

As the days get shorter and colder, it naturally becomes increasingly hard to find the time and energy to remain active.  For those of us who loved our autumn jogs after class, the transition to the harshly lit-room at the Sports Center with its various, hard plastic cardio equipment is not at all desirable.  Perhaps even more difficult is the fate of exercise once we get home and find that baking, preparing for the holidays, or visiting with friends and family just feels so much better than renewing our gym membership, huffing out on the road for an icy jog, or futzing around with Wii fit. 

However, even if weather does not pose a threat to our workouts (for those lucky Floridians), the change in schedule certainly might.  The transition from structured class days to whatever your winter schedule might be likely also affects your "normal" workout time.  As a result, whether in Florida or Alaska, you may very well be at risk of feeling the effects of inactivity this winter break.  For some, this inactivity may serve to exacerbate an impending dangerous dip in overall energy levels.  For others, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) poses a real threat during the winter months as it brings on symptoms of depression, irritability, fatigue, and a greater need for sleep. 

So how do we avoid the looming sedentary lifestyle of winter break?  Try out the following fun ways to break a sweat!

1.  No need to join a gym!  Choose from one of many apps that helps you find a fun indoor workout for anything from yoga to burpees (yes, everyone's favorite).  I personally recommend the Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout App or Yogify (both free!).

2.  Bundle up and get outside! Grab a friend, relative, dog, or all three and head out on a trail walk. This is a great option if you're feeling a bit under the weather and don't feel quite up to a full-body workout. Whether you’re home or visiting family, you can find a nice trail by going to USA Track & Field (http://www.usatf.org/routes/). Feeling a bit more competitive? Try out Running in the USA (http://runningintheusa.com/Race/) for 5K, trail races, half marathons and any other feat you might want to tackle. 

3.  Don't have the time to devote to scheduled workout? Here are some suggestions for fitting in activity into your normal day. Whether shopping, exchanging Meema’s cat sweater, or window shopping, try to make a game of creating the longest possible distance between stores so you can get some extra steps into your shopping adventures.  If you'll be in a snowy area, volunteer to get out that snow shovel and burn about 400 calories per hour! If you celebrate Christmas, Time Healthland says you can burn 85 calories decorating the Christmas tree or 48 calories wrapping presents in just half an hour!

Regardless of how you choose to break a sweat this winter break, studies show that short-term benefits of exercise include elevated mood, productivity, and relaxation.  So do your best to get up, get moving, and have fun!

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