Walking reduces stress, and the holidays, let’s face it, are stressful. So why do so many of us hang up our shoes during this time of year? Here’s what the experts recommend for staying on track this season.
Schedule weekly walks, just like any other event
You’ll see results if you make your walk a priority, says Mo Hagan, fitness instructor at GoodLife Fitness in Toronto. Sue Burness, a Running Room walking group instructor in Toronto, concurs. “Think of walking as an essential part of your self-care,” she says. If a holiday party or Christmas shopping interferes with your daily routine, work around it. “Go for a walk at lunch. Or get up earlier and fit it in before you go to the office,” suggests Hagan.
Start a new family tradition
You aren’t the only one feeling full after Aunt Sara’s apple pie. “Make exercise part of your holiday meal,” says Hagan. Suggest a post-Turkey dinner trek, for instance; you’ll be spending time together and burning calories to boot. You may even initiate a healthy family tradition. “My favorite family Christmas activity is our after-dinner walk,” says Hagan.
Motivate yourself with new gear
Splurge on a new pair of walking shoes or some cute, cold-weather walking clothes, says Hagan. Consider it an early Christmas present and a long-term investment in your health.
Make your workout more efficient
If you don’t have an hour to walk, try a half-hour interval blast: You’ll get the same benefit in half the time. “You can get as much or even more out of a 20 to 30 minute workout,” says Hagan. “It’s all about intensity.” Hagan’s advice for bringing the heat: Break up your regular pace with short, intense bursts of effort. Swing your arms briskly and take longer strides. “Walk for three minutes at a moderate pace, then push yourself for one minute at a brisk pace [you should be struggling to speak, and your heart should be pounding]. Repeat seven times for a total of 28 minutes.”
If you do miss a walk, don’t spend the rest of the week worrying about it — just get up and re-start your routine the next day. “Too many people quit as soon as they miss a workout or two,” warns Hagan. Instead, forgive yourself and keep on walking.