Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009
K-STATE KINESIOLOGY PROFESSOR RECOMMENDS HEALTHY HABITS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
MANHATTAN -- The holiday season can add many social and cultural challenges to a one's diet and exercise regimen, according to Kansas State University's Melissa Bopp, assistant professor of kinesiology.
Bopp describes the holiday season as a double-edged sword because of the calorie-dense foods often served at social gatherings and the lack of time for exercise due to busy schedules and lack of access to exercise facilities when traveling.
To avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season, Bopp suggests adding physical activities into family holiday activities.
"For people who are really interested in continuing to be active over the holidays, sometimes it just takes a little bit of recognition," she said. "Maybe you don't get to go to the gym four days of the week over the holidays, but maybe when you're visiting your family you can take a walk together or visit the step-aerobics class your sister normally goes to. Recognize that you're not going to be in your normal routine."
In terms of extreme exercise plans such as those seen on television shows like "The Biggest Loser," Bopp said that while they may be effective, they are not realistic for the common person.
"If you do extreme workouts, you're going to burn a lot of calories and things like that," she said. "But whether it is realistic for members of the general public who don't have one, two or three hours a day to devote to exercise, or even the capability of doing exercise at that level, is probably a whole other question unto itself."
According to Bopp, current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a healthy lifestyle and to maintain weight is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week or 25 minutes of vigorous activity three days a week. To lose weight, the Institute of Medicine recommends 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week with some form of healthy diet or caloric restriction.
For people who have a sedentary lifestyle but want to become more active as a New Year's resolution, Bopp recommends starting low and going slow.
"There are people who struggle with walking around the block once, so obviously a 60-minute exercise session would be rather difficult for them," she said. "But, starting at a low intensity and going slow, they may be eventually able to walk around the block twice, then three times and on."
As for diet during the holiday season, Bopp suggests healthy habits such as eating a small meal before going to a holiday gathering to avoid eating in excess at the event and drinking water instead of calorie-laden alcohol and other festive drinks.
Bopp said her best advice for the holiday season is "something is better than nothing." She said rather than setting unrealistic diet and exercise goals, people should recognize that any little thing that can be done to implement physical activity and healthy diet into their holiday schedule is better than not doing anything at all.
"Whether it's somebody who's active now and recognizing going into the holidays that they might not get a chance to be as active as they normally are, something is better than nothing," she said. "Or somebody who wants to get a head start on their New Year's resolution, even a little bit of activity and sensible eating is a good start. It's all about making behavioral habits -- things that are going to be able to be sustained over a long period of time."