It’s December 23rd, and with the festive holidays about to start, it got me wondering about people’s ability to heal their mind and body as we typically view the holiday season to rest and relax. So the question is, during a holiday period, which is supposed to be restful, are you healing, or are you making things worse? This article highlights the 3-typical things people get wrong and what you can do to regenerate your cells, immune system, muscles, and neurological system.
The 3 things people get wrong during the holidays is the following:
Poor sleeping patterns
Lack of movement
Being a Home Personal Trainer in Liverpool and Wirral, I often dread any holiday periods. However, my personal training clients have easy access to the city well-known for its incredible nightlife, shops, bars, and restaurants, which doesn't help keep my clients on their fitness and weight loss journey.
Although socialising with family and friends is essential to enjoying life, being social is synonymous with drinking alcohol and/or eating indulgent food. This increases when we hit the holiday season and thus leads to more weight gain and a decline in mental & physical health despite the fact we feel the need to escape from the high-stress world we live in.
Fitness at home is an excellent way to be able to keep yourself in a great mental and physical state throughout the holidays and I'll cover the reasons why later in this article but if you want more details on the benefits of Home Fitness exercise then click here to read my previous article
Before we go into the main points people get wrong and what you can do about it, let's understand what resting and taking a break should be.
Feeling stressed, tired, and generally under the weather is a big sign you need to take a break as your mind and body signify deleterious outcomes. One branch of your autonomic nervous system responsible for fight or flight responses (the sympathetic system) is overactive when you become physically and mentally stressed. The best remedy for this is to move into the opposing branch of the nervous system (the parasympathetic system), which is activated primarily when you rest and relax.
Unfortunately, most people see the social aspect of drinking and eating overindulgent foods as their escape to relaxation due to the brain's positive, feel-good chemicals during these consumption times. This fools people into thinking this is what their mind and body need to recover from the everyday stresses of life. Well, this is far from reality!
Overeating indulgent foods and drinking alcohol, regardless of how relaxing or fun it may seem, makes you significantly worse, not better! Instead of using the holidays to rejuvenate, you’re simply piling on more physiological stress, so by the time you head back to work, you're in a worse state before the holidays begin. Ever felt as though you need a break after a heavy holiday period?
Let's now examine the 3 most significant areas people get wrong during the holidays and what simple things you can do to replenish your mind & body whilst still having a good time.
Side note: If you want to find out how to keep focused on losing weight during the holiday season, check out this article here… Weight loss during the holidays.
Problem - Drinking alcohol and eating convenience foods will produce an excess of free radicals in the body. The imbalance of Reactive Oxygen Species is where the body runs into danger. Free radicals have long been known to be the killing component of immune cells, significantly impairing the body’s ability to fight off illnesses and tumour formation.
I'm far from being an expert in biochemistry, so if you want to geek out on research, here's a link to a study on Reactive Oxygen Species in Cancer.
To keep it simple, just know that too many free radicals in the body will speed up your cells' death, which also means speeding up the end of you. I know that might sound dramatic but, that's what is happening the more toxins you put in your system.
To add insult to injury, we typically overconsume these toxins when the body is already in a highly stressed state. Hopefully, you're beginning to see the picture forming here? Unfortunately, our typical holiday behaviours make us worse and not better!
Solution – Consuming foods high in antioxidants is a real smart move during the holiday season. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect cells from damage defending the body from harmful free radicals. During the festive season, it would be a good idea to get some of these foods in:
There are plenty more nutrient-rich foods to name but, the list above will give you plenty of bang for your buck.
Problem – We know from traditional eastern philosophies and cutting-edge western science that sleep is arguably the single most crucial factor concerning our health. Unfortunately, most of us fall short of the ideal 7-8hrs of undisturbed sleep a night.
If you want to dive into more details on sleep and how this affects your fitness and weight loss journey, read my previous article here, How Sleep Impacts Fitness, Weight Loss & Diet.
Sleep is also essential for your brain health and function, there have been plenty of studies now highlighting this, but another interesting thing to note is the impacts of sleep on cognitive performance. Again, you can check out the science here for further reading.
Your holiday period should be a time for your mind to heal and restore optimal function. However, if you're already struggling with sleep and then decided to have numerous late nights and erratic wake times, then you're further disrupting your natural circadian rhythms.
This will result in suboptimal sleep recovery, leading to cognitive decline, which is hardly the outcome you want if you want to feel good and perform at your best when you return to work.
Solution – There are plenty of sleep strategies you can implement to help with sleep; however, the best piece of advice I can give you during the holiday period is to keep a consistent sleep pattern not too far from your regular routine. This will keep your circadian rhythms in alignment, allowing for optimal recovery of both mind and body.
Aim for 7-8hrs of undisturbed sleep each night, and you'll get a lot of mileage from the body’s natural healing process.
Problem – It may seem logical to keep activity levels low to rest your body during the holidays. However, this is the worse thing you can do! Now don't get me wrong, there's value in physical rest but only in the context of a break from a high load of physical training.
If you're not a regular exerciser and remain sedentary during the holidays, you'll feel even more lethargic, especially if you intend to overindulge. By moving your body, you'll naturally improve your circulation and increase mitochondria function, which provides you with energy on a cellular level.
Along with the natural increase of energy production, you'll also have the obvious calorie burn benefits. Unfortunately, if you avoid physical activity during the holidays, you'll miss a significant opportunity to create more natural energy whilst also gaining some unwanted body fat.
Solution - If you're physically exhausted as you approach the holidays, then it's a good idea to take some rest days and allow the body to enter an anabolic state and optimise the rebuilding of muscle, cells, and immune system. It is however important to keep moving. You don't need high-intensity gym training sessions, Home Fitness workouts will be more than enough. Lowering the intensity and frequency of exercise sessions during the holidays along with low-intensity movements such as walking will be an excellent strategy to optimise your recovery and rejuvenate your body.
Whether you are new to exercise or a regular fitness fanatic, keeping your body moving during the rest period is a good idea. Just bring down the intensity and frequency for the regulars and for those just starting, then ease your way into training and gradually build up as you start to get fitter.
If you want some ideas of exercise routines, then visit my home fitness workout library and sample some of my routines. I’ve labelled them by duration and calories burned in each routine so take your pick to suit you… Click here
It's essential to enjoy the holidays, but it's more important to make sure you're using them for their real purpose, rejuvenation. Of course, you can still have moments of indulgence, but also consider the 3 critical areas highlighted in this article. Then, try to integrate them into your holiday schedule to get the very most from this period so you can return to work as a fitter, stronger, healthier, and more focused human being.
Until next time