During the holidays and their celebrations, big meals and cookies, many of us fall away from our fitness goals. And restarting a fitness regimen can be challenging.
Whether it's an overflowing inbox, overtime at work or tending to your loved ones, many of us struggle with finding time to exercise.
So what are the best ways to revive your routine in the new year?
One piece of advice is to schedule workouts like you would a meeting. If you put your physical activity in your calendar, you're more likely to work out.
“My No. 1 tip for keeping a workout regimen is to schedule your workout as part of your day, just as you would a meeting or appointment,” says Jill Schneider, manager at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers, in Chesterton. “Whether it’s a 30-minute workout or three, 10-minute workout breaks during your day, your health will benefit from both as will your schedule.”
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Eric White, regional coach at Anytime Fitness, says the first step to resuming workouts in new year is to develop a specific goal. No one exercise is better than any others, according to White, with the outcome depending on personal objectives. “Do you want to maintain weight? You want to build mass or strength? You want to pick your exercises based on your goals,” says White.
According to White, if your goal is to maintain or lose weight after the holidays, your focus should be on calorie burning exercises that get your heart rate up. “Since a lot of people may eat an excess of calories during the holidays, high calorie burning exercises can be planned to counteract that.”
White recommends High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a suite of exercises done over a short amount of time. He says these types of workouts can be good for re-establishing a fitness routine because they can be done at home or the gym. “Air squats and jump squats, burpees, lunges are great HIIT exercises to do for maintaining weight,” says White.
But he cautions “you can not outwork a bad diet, but you can potentially slow down the weight gain.”
If your goal is to maintain or build muscle, White says adding "resistance" to any kind of activity is a great approach. And by resistance, White means adding any kind of countervailing pressure, like weight, to an activity from a dumbbell curl to lifting a gallon of milk.
“Resistance is any type of weight; it doesn't have to be a dumbbell,” says White. You can get creative by doing deadlifts while holding suitcases while traveling. And with that milk, you can perform split squats while holding one or more bottles. White also says simple pushups “always go a long way.”
Acknowledging that the gym can get busy in the first few months of the year, White recommends trying a basic gym style routine at least three times a week to exert every muscle.
He also stresses the importance of efficiency to any successful workout routine. “It's the busiest time of year for gyms. Most new year’s resolutions involve fitness,” says White. “So it’s important to be as efficient as possible when you workout.”
But maintaining physical activity is important in the winter. There is a growing body of evidence that even moderately active people who go through less active or sedentary periods can be at more risk for maladies from obesity to heart disease.
A meta-analysis in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that physical activity helps with psychological and physiological needs and leads to “higher well-being.” Even 20 minutes of physical activity can dramatically improve your mood and sense of well-being.
“The most important thing is to keep consistency” says White. “Once you stop, it's so much harder to start over.”
Schneider says adding exercise to your daily routine can also help improve your immune health.
The winter may be a less appealing time to get out and be active, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself and stay fit with a few good plans to get you through the season.
“In my opinion the best workout someone can do during the season is one that they enjoy and one that they will make time for,” says Schneider.