Happy December! Most adults gain one-five pounds of weight during the holidays, so as hard as it is to boost your attention span on exercise at this time of the year, you need these tips. I actually prefer the term "Guiding Principles" because specific tips tend to be both rigid and limiting. The holiday season is meant to be festive, so keep it that way by being flexible with your workouts.
1. Ambient Exercise
Learn about "Ambient Exercise." Coined decades ago but not readily used in today's extreme exercise arena, the phrase, Ambient Exercise, refers to short bouts of metabolically stimulating movements. You don't need equipment, and you can perform this type of routine almost anywhere.
Believe it or not, as little as two minutes of moderate movement is enough to shift your metabolism into a higher gear, so three short routines throughout the day may provide even greater benefits than the typical gym workout. The best part is that no single routine is required - you can mix and match exercises at will and still achieve your goals: keep your metabolism churning throughout the day. Start each morning with a five minute routine (remember our Functional Five?), take a walk at lunch, and mid-afternoon repeat the morning sequence.
2. Breathe, Part I
If you've ever been on a run with me, you know how fond I am of reminding people to breathe. It seems redundant to mention, as you wouldn't be alive if you weren't breathing. But sadly, most people never fully engage their lungs in the exchange of gases, and as a result, their body exists in a constant depletion state. It's one of the main reasons that people are always so tired.
When you take the time to breathe in deeply, you get more oxygen into your lungs. More oxygen in your lungs means more oxygen in your blood. Deep breathing also dispels a higher concentration of carbon dioxide. Why is this important? Fatigue, acidity, and inflammation are all impacted by the toxicity of your bloodstream, and carbon dioxide is a toxic substance. That's why we exhale it!
3. Breathe, Part II
Keep your mouth closed so that air goes in through your nose. When air goes in through your mouth, your brain activates the fight or flight center and your heart rate becomes more difficult to control. Air that goes into your nose, on the other hand, allows your brain to manage physiological processes in your body which regulate heart rate and stress.
Mouth breathing during sleep leads to insufficient rest, which trickles down to other lifestyle concerns such as sugar cravings, irritability, and poor cognition. If you struggle with this, try Breathe Right strips to open up your nasal passages naturally. They work wonders!
4. Get Optimal Sleep
Speaking of sleep, here's the most important thing you need to know: your own body's needs. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep each night but how much you need may vary from this generalized recommendation by as much as an hour. As the shortest day of the year approaches, where dusk falls earlier and earlier, you may find yourself craving rest even more. That's perfectly normal and it's really best not to fight it.
High quality sleep means that you fall asleep and stay asleep comfortably until morning. Your room should be dark and cool, and air quality is important. Try to go to bed hydrated but not so much that you'll have to get up for a trip to the bathroom. You also don't want to go to bed hungry or full. Finally, don't go to bed intoxicated.
5. Play Games (not video)
If you adopt the first principle of daily ambient exercise, you do not -need- a full schedule of workouts. If you are training for an event this winter or a beach holiday next spring, your schedule may need those sessions to prevent conditioning slip back. But otherwise, you should really get out and play tag, kick the soccer ball around, shoot hoops, ski, skate, make a snowman! Even housework burns calories so get off the couch, push away from the desk, and move around more.