Stress-Free Holidays

Exercise your way to holiday bliss

Stress-Free Holidays

Don't stress this holiday season! Keep your calm by exercising. Try a group exercise class; go for a run; or take up yoga, weight lifting, or boxing.

Shopping, rushing to parties, cleaning, and preparing gift bags of homemade goodies-—endless holiday activities are enough to stress out the best of us. So what can you do to calm down and reclaim some peace and quiet for mind and body?

Run, dance, punch, kick, lift, or pose: why not do some physical exercise? It’s a wonderful way to de-stress. Boost your mood and energy while burning calories and releasing healthy and happy hormones such as epinephrine, adrenalin, and serotonin. Just by moving your body for a short period of time, you release hormones into your bloodstream, affecting your mood and changing the way you feel for the rest of the day.

If you already enjoy exercise, you know how great you feel afterward. It’s a sure way to conquer the stress of hectic holiday chores. If you’ve never tried it, then there’s no better time to embark on a program of health and fitness. No matter what type of exercise you choose, any type of movement will help you feel invigorated and less stressed than when you started.

Dance studio owner Lyndsey Carr finds that hiking is her favourite way to de-stress over the holidays, even in bad weather. Her other top choice, of course, is dancing. “It’s a great way to feel free and have fun,” she says.

Dancing, hiking, or other forms of movement are surefire ways to combat the holiday craziness and melt away tension.

Here are my top five trainer-recommended exercise solutions to beat your holiday stress.

Running

Hit the track, the local trails, or your indoor treadmill to get your legs moving and your heart pumping.

Get started

Find a great place to run that is aesthetically pleasing, and choose a slow time (you’ve seen enough crowds already). Make sure to wear a watch to keep track of your time and distance. If it’s too snowy outside, find a treadmill or indoor track that suits you.

Equipment

  • a solid pair of running shoes
  • breathable clothing
  • a lightweight jacket with pockets or a fanny pack to store your keys and cellphone
  • a portable music device (crank the tunes to stay energized on a cold day)

Benefits

Increased hormonal release to your brain causes you to feel happier and more relaxed following a run, says running expert Jason Karp, PhD.

Holiday time commitment

Run for a minimum of five minutes, but Karp recommends at least 20 minutes to get the maximum benefit. Try to get in at least one run a week.

Group exercise class

If you can’t get motivated on your own, let someone else take the reins and put you through a great workout.

Get started

Go online and check out your local community and fitness centres. Most will have their group fitness class schedules posted on their website. Find a date and time that works for you and show up!

Equipment

  • a good pair of cross-training shoes
  • comfortable, breathable clothing
  • an exercise mat (mostly for hygiene purposes; not all community centres have them)
  • a towel
  • a water bottle

Benefits

Moving to music makes you feel happier, and moving for at least 30 minutes will give you an endorphin rush and detoxify your body through sweating. When you’re at an exercise class there’s no time to think about shopping or lists.

Holiday time commitment

Most classes run at least a half hour; expect to commit to one hour. Going two to three times per week is most beneficial.

Weight lifting

Nothing burns off stress like pumping some weights at the gym. Build strength, stamina, and endurance while melting away the day’s stress.

Get started

If you’ve never lifted weights before, request a free orientation from your local community centre gym or fitness centre. Start with lighter weights and do 12 to 15 repetitions. Pick eight to 10 exercises for your total body and do two sets of each exercise.

Equipment

  • sturdy cross training shoes
  • comfortable, breathable clothing
  • a towel
  • a water bottle

Benefits

Lifting weights can improve your mood and help relieve stress by increasing your happy hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. Increased lean body mass helps you burn more calories at rest, resulting in a healthier body. As well, lifting weights can help you sleep better— something that stress can disrupt.

Holiday time commitment

Give yourself at least 20 to 40 minutes to get through your exercises, twice per week. ä

Boxing

What better way to relieve stress than doing some crosses and upper cuts?

Get started

Find a boxing gym or boxer fit class in your area, and make an appointment with a trainer or sign up for some classes.

Equipment

  • sturdy shoes
  • breathable, comfortable clothing
  • gloves or hand wraps
  • a towel
  • a water bottle

Benefits

Blow off steam with cardio and punching combinations. Leave the gym feeling empowered and strong.

Holiday time commitment

Get in between 30 and 60 minutes twice a week.

Yoga

Yoga can provide the ultimate relaxation experience, depending on the type you do.

Get started

Find a local class that isn’t too far away; driving in rush hour isn’t going to help you relax. Pick a class that focuses on breathing and relaxing rather than power and strength.

Clare Edmundson, a regular yoga participant, enjoys restorative Kundalini yoga. She says it’s more relaxing than other types of classes. She recommends this type of yoga for people who want to simply relax, rather than get a workout.

Equipment

  • comfortable, breathable clothing
  • a yoga mat
  • a water bottle

Benefits

Yoga’s benefits include greater flexibility and strength, increased mental focus, and deep relaxation. Studies show it’s beneficial in preventing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depression; reducing pain; and improving insulin resistance.

Holiday time commitment

Devote as much time as you can handle. Each class lasts from 60 to 90 minutes; going at least twice per week will be most beneficial.

With all the stress and mayhem that the holidays bring, it’s important to have an outlet with which to unwind and regroup. Exercise is a great way to let off some steam and feel healthy and happy at the same time. You may even lose a few pounds along the way, minimizing the stress of those New Year’s resolutions.

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