Christmas is almost here, and I’m sure all of us have tested our willpower during the holidays. Many stories have surfaced from clients who are frustrated—they’re finding it hard to “just say no!” All emphasize the struggles and temptations associated with the holiday season including cookies, pastries and doughnuts for breakfast and meaningful friends bearing gifts of decadent foods.
We still have a couple of weeks of holiday celebration in store and it’s never too late to put on the brakes. There is still time to strengthen our resolve and make these holidays “lighter.” Let’s recall the basic steps when we began our plant-based journey:
Keep it simple. Stick to the basic food groups including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, legumes or peas. There are no fancy recipes required to prepare well-balanced meals.
Put a rainbow on your plate. Think of the brilliant colors associated with our four food groups and add color to your plate at every meal. These fabulous colors are packed with vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals, fiber and enough energy to keep us going strong during the holiday rush.
Remember your “Why.” We all have a reason or motivation that moved us to make healthier food choices. Was it to prevent a genetic condition, lose weight, live longer or see your daughter walking down the aisle? All of these reasons still exist; we just need to keep them in the forefront of our minds.
These are basic food-related recommendations, but that isn’t all we can do to make the holidays lighter. There are important lifestyle practices that are key in our overall success such as physical activity (a.k.a. exercise). Understanding the power of exercise can motivate people to move more.
Physical activity is directly related to improved health by influencing different bodily functions. Let’s identify a few of these health benefits (HB) so that we have a clear understanding of why doctors are quick to ask, “Do you exercise?”
HB #1: Improves Circulation: The circulatory system consists of the heart, lungs and blood vessels, which helps deliver oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. Exercise can raise your HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff). But there is more! Regular physical activity can also lower heart rate, help reduce blood pressure, and be protective against heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
HB #2: Promotes Digestion: The digestive system includes everything from your mouth and stomach to the small and large intestines, colon, rectum and anus. It also works in harmony with a few other digestive organs such as the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. The digestive system delivers vital nutrients to feed every cell in the body; it also is responsible for waste disposal. Regular physical exercise can relieve constipation and can have a protective effect against diverticular disease and colon cancer.
HB #3: Regulates Metabolism: We may not be familiar with the term “endocrine” system, but we probably have heard of the thyroid, adrenals, and pancreas. These glands are responsible for the production of vital hormones that regulate growth, sexual function and metabolism. Regular exercise can stimulate hormones that help lower blood sugar, improve insulin levels and improve weight management.
HB #4: Fortifies Immunity: Now more than ever, we have heard of the importance of a good immune system when dealing with Covid-19. The immune system consists of organs and specialized cells that protect our bodies from harmful organisms. Moderate exercise has been shown to help strengthen the immune system against some diseases such as respiratory infections. Overtraining and excessive strenuous exercise can compromise or suppress immunity making one more susceptible to infection.
HB #5: Strengthens Musculature: Physical activity can improve muscular endurance, strength, flexibility through full range-of-motion, and agility based on the type of activity performed. When we stress our muscles through weight bearing exercise and then provide adequate rest, we can experience muscular growth and development. This provides more energy and it burns more energy helping us attain a healthy weight.
HB #6 Builds Strong Bones: Our skeletal system consists of bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage, which enable the body to move. Exercise helps increase the amount of synovial fluid, which keeps joints healthy and mobile. I compare synovial fluid to oil for a hinge to keep it functioning properly. Exercise keeps all of your joints mobile, but the benefits don’t stop there. Physical activity makes bones stronger and denser, which helps prevents injuries or enables faster recovery.
More than ever, this holiday season is about staying healthy. Regular exercise provides many benefits and is believed to be one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.
Don’t be shy. Send me an email and share how you plan to move more this holiday season and into 2021!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all,