When a demanding holiday season leaves you twisted in knots from the stresses of commitments, crowds, shopping and entertaining, Seattle physical therapist Izette Swan, has a suggestion: sweat away that stress by making exercise a part of your holiday routine.
“Nearly any form of exercise – walking, running, cycling, lifting weights or taking a yoga class – can serve as a stress reliever during particularly difficult stretches, such as the holiday season,” said Swan, owner of Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy in Seattle. “Movement can be a powerful remedy for not only stress, but also for easing the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity leads to the increased production of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that help you feel good. In addition, exercise has a “meditation in motion” effect as the focus on physical activity helps you forget about the stressors of your day.
“Exercise also does wonders in improving your self-confidence, the body fatigue helps you relax during the day, and you’ll likely sleep better,” Swan said. “A great rule of thumb is that when your body feels good, your mind will typically follow suit.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that each week, adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking or swimming) – or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., running) – plus some strength training on two or more days.
If you currently don’t abide by an exercise routine, Swan offers the following recommendations to get you started:
Consult your physician. If you have health concerns or just haven’t exercised in a while, it’s worth making sure your body can handle the increased workload.
Start small. Don’t try to start at the top. Set small, incremental goals that will help build your fitness level, easing you into longer workouts and the consistency of a daily routine. Be patient; you’ll get there.
Have fun. Commit to activities you enjoy and which fit your personality. If you’re competitive, take up a racquet sport. If you’re social, join a group fitness class. And, if you’re more introverted, find a good solo activity.
Use the buddy system. Workout buddies help infuse an element of positive peer pressure to your exercise routine, ensuring better consistency and accountability. Plus, working out with a friend is more fun and helps your workout seemingly move along much quicker.
Mix it up. Change your workout once in a while to break up the monotony. Allow yourself to explore a diverse set of activities and disciplines that may challenge your body in different ways.
In addition, Swan notes that movement experts, like the physical therapists at Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy, can help you establish a workout routine that’s more in-tune with your body’s strengths and limitations, as well as your personal fitness goals.