Give yourself a gift this holiday season: Exercise |

Give yourself a gift this holiday season: Exercise

Jeff Russell, PT
Alpine Physical Therapy PC
Fraser, Colorado

Autumn is fully upon us and with it comes the season of feasting on culinary delights. For some reason, the shorter, chillier days make it irresistible to snarf down on all manner of holiday goodies, from Halloween candies and Christmas cookies to over-filling, excessive Thanksgiving or Yule-time dinners.

Of course, this sets us up for the inevitable New Year’s resolution to practice more healthy habits, such as eating right and getting more exercise. Seems like every year it’s the same. This year, wouldn’t it be great to sneak up on that old scenario, and head it off at the pass by starting those healthy habits before the holidays wreak havoc on your sweet tooth and waistline?

Eating too much and getting too little exercise have created an epidemic of obesity in our country. Likewise, diabetes has become rampant as we habitually ingest sugar-intense foods and beverages that exhaust our pancreas’s ability to match that intake with production of insulin, the hormone that helps us absorb sugar from blood into out bodies.

Jobs that keep us sitting, vehicles that move us around and busy lifestyles that leave us too little time or too worn out to re-create ourselves with physically active pastimes are all barriers to leading the more healthy lives that we know could reduce or eliminate some of the disease that plagues us.

Not only have we climbed to the top of the food chain, having eradicated most, if not all animals who might give us a good workout by chasing us around the forest, but we are also fortunate enough to live in one of the leading technological powers in the world where, for most of us, using another time-saving convenience or work-saving device has replaced physically toiling to stay alive.

As we spend more and more time using electronic technology and computers for work, entertainment or communications, we distance ourselves from our own ability to interact in our environments, and the need to incorporate activity into our lives is made ever more apparent. If we spend all day sitting, get around by driving, and eat as if we were actually burning calories, there’s no surprise that we’re going to put on some pounds.

Being overweight increases fatigue, which can often make undertaking a conditioning program seem like too much work. Extra weight places a strain on backs and weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees, and ankles, which makes low-impact exercise choices important. Excess weight also strains the cardiovascular system as the heart has to pump blood to more tissue than if your weight were ideal for your height.

Exercise not only helps burn the calories that would cause you to gain weight, it also promotes insulin bonding to uptake sugar, thus helping regulate blood sugar levels, and hopefully keeping diabetes at bay. Consult a physician if you have any question about whether starting an exercise program is all right for you, but don’t let that be a barrier to increasing your activity gradually. As you do start to lose weight and gain strength, you will find that workouts get easier, and you are less fatigued just by everyday activity.

In the battle against obesity and diabetes there are a few important concepts to keep in mind when deciding what to ingest, and what to do.

– Calories ingested must be less than calories expended to lose weight.

– Eating some protein with carbohydrates can slow down digestion, easing the strain on the pancreas.

– Recent studies show that even those who are genetically predisposed to obesity can maintain healthy weight if they engage in an adequately rigorous exercise program.

Consulting a nutritionist can help guide you toward healthier eating habits by helping you learn how to identify what foods are rich in calories, or have a high glycemic index, and by identifying strategies that will help you balance your lifestyle.

As you make plans for the holidays, you might consider how to make some small changes that can profoundly alter the impact that holiday eating has on you.

Some suggestions for making positive changes:

– As in everything, moderation is key.

– Limit snacks and sweets.

– Balance eating and activity. If you know you’ve been sitting and socializing more than usual, suggest going for a walk or doing something active as you socialize.

– Limit time spent in sedentary activities such as video games, computer activities, and television. Instead, spend some of that time enjoying sports, physically active games, walking, hiking, or otherwise enjoying the best of what Grand County has to offer.

– Choose to walk or ride a bike for short trips when it makes sense. You can cut down on gasoline consumption and do your body some good.

Take time out of your busy lifestyle to make time for yourself and keep balance in your life. You’ll be glad you did.

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