The holiday season is in full swing, which means more parties, more food and a good chance of gaining a few pounds. Fortunately, you have a secret weapon that will help in enjoying the season while also keeping the extra pounds away. Exercise!

Making exercise a priority during holidays is the key to starting the day feeling healthy and happy. Even working out for a short period would do because 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.

The leading cause of ill-health in women and men is cardiovascular disease. Doing regular cardiovascular exercise (defined as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, 3-5 times per week for 30-60 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 or even healthy unprocessed food, blood sugar level increases. 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, pre-diabetes, 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.

Weight Management
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 increases during holidays), and increasing positive mood feelings. Exercise has also been shown to boost self-esteem and body-image confidence.


If  you are heading off to a big holiday meal after a workout, the kind of exercise you choose can actually increase your appetites. A high-intensity (anaerobic) workout depletes glycogen stores, leaving you feeling hungrier, especially for sugar-rich carbs. Instead, you should stick to a moderate-intensity aerobic workout, which uses more body fat for fuel and spares some of the glycogen, leaving you feel energized but not starving. If you prefer to hit weights, you are advised to choose a lower to moderate-intensity level workout with longer rest periods between sets. You should choose weights with which it is easy to 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 micro-tears in the muscles. 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.


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