Photo: Pixabay

Are you wondering how to incorporate exercise during the holidays when your time is tighter than those high school jeans that no longer fit?

No need to worry.

Staying on your fitness journey doesn’t have to be boring or a budget-blaster. With creativity, some tweaking and opening yourself to new changes or new activities – you can yield fitness results. For example, listening to music can be good for your health.

“Even listening to music with a good beat for 15 minutes can change your state of mind,” says Frank Lipman, an integrative physician, founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and author of Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again.

Besides changing your state of mind, music combined with dancing for 30 minutes burns approximately 175 calories and can be done at home.

I wonder if my mother knew this.

Growing up, she always played music while my siblings and I shuffled between dancing and housework. That family memory is still ingrained. Today, I continue to listen to music, dance and clean, knowing that I’m burning calories too.

Most gyms, rec centers and churches offer traditional and dance-based fitness classes for free or a small fee. Hint: this time of year is prime for securing five or 10-day free memberships at these facilities.

Photo courtesy of Sondra Hines

More than exercise

While exercise is essential, what you put in your body is important too. The upcoming holiday season is a perfect opportunity to go green.

Have you noticed most vegetable trays are usually scarcely touched (yet yield many health benefits)? With that in mind, I decided to challenge myself. Thus, for 90-days, I went meatless and consumed a vegetarian diet. Initially, it was grueling.

Vegetarian options tasted awful, and I longed to savor familiar foods. Even though I missed chicken wings, I tried different dishes and stepped outside my comfort zone (chicken-less chicken salad, vegan meatloaf, etc.). This holiday, consider stepping outside of your comfort zone by eating more veggies or adding a spin to common dishes, e.g. low-cal sweet potato casserole topped with pecans (versus a sugary sweet potato pie).

Since the end of the year is typically when most weight gain occurs, here are a few strategies to help you stay on track and save money:

  1. Mother Nature: Although I exercise regularly, I always walk and/or run when possible to add something new to my fitness mix. Not interested in going outdoors? Visit your favorite mall. Most open early and allow walkers early entry.
  2. Technology: If you enjoy using technology, free fitness apps are plentiful. From yoga to kickboxing, there is an array of exercise choices that you can do in the privacy of your home. An added bonus – most rentals are free with a public library card.
  3. Free Opportunities: Visit gyms/fitness facilities and request a complimentary membership. For example, the YMCA offers reduced membership rates.
  4. Explore your home: Your staircase, for example, provides a wonderful cardio workout by lapping up and down. Or, do sit-ups during commercials.
  5. Strength in Numbers: Black Girls Run and GirlTrek are two national organizations with local chapters that encourage women of color to stay active. There are also rec leagues for men and women who enjoy team sports.
  6. Motivation: In 1995, I lost my mother to heart disease. In 1997, I received my first fitness certification and this keeps me encouraged; even on days when I’d rather skip workouts!
  7. Have Fun: During holiday gatherings, add a few exercises, depending on what you eat: apple pie (50 squats), bread/rolls (50 jumping jacks), red velvet cake (50 plank jacks), turkey (50 side lunges; each side), macaroni and cheese (50 crunches) or create your own list. Invite family/friends and have them join in.

Remember to always visit your doctor before beginning any new fitness program, particularly if you are restarting or have health challenges. Once you get started, here is a great website to see how many calories are burned through everyday activities. Use the money saved to buy yourself a new pair of jeans…you deserve it!

Be healthy. Be well. Enjoy the holidays!

Sondra Hines, AFAA, is a former college adjunct professor and freelance writer who covers fitness and healthy living. She enjoys helping others reach their fitness goals. Sondra holds certifications in Group Fitness and Zumba.

Read More

Sondra E. Z. Hines is an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. A former adjunct professor, she has 15-plus years as a fitness instructor...