We sit around quite a bit during the holidays. We sit around the table, we sit around the fire. We sit for family game nights and trips to holiday movies. We sit on planes, trains, and in automobiles for long stretches of time. The weather is usually frightful, and the sun sets early. While this is seasonal and sets a lovely, wintry tone for holiday festivities, all of this sitting can be detrimental to your health. If you are suffering from a chronic pain condition like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor has likely recommended regular, low impact exercise. Even with chilly temperatures and a sun that sets early, there are many different ways to get plenty of exercise over the holidays.

Holiday lights

There are some holiday displays that are so massive that you need a car to see them all, but what about the lights in your neighborhood? Bundle up, make a mug of hot apple cider, and go for a walk. Small children are a great excuse to go slower if you need to.

If you have a larger but relatively flat neighborhood and the streets are dry, consider a moonlit bike ride for light viewing. You can even decorate your bike to get in the spirit, with plenty of tinsel and rope lights.

Make this a family tradition, or walk through your neighborhood every night with a camera, documenting the progress of the lights. Many people put their displays up the weekend following Thanksgiving, but not everyone. Take pictures as you go.

For an adventure in holiday light viewing, check out the 50 best places to see Christmas lights in America, or just look up your own zip code.

Everyday fitness

Sure, it’s cold outside and you don’t want to go for a walk or even to the gym. So why not mix it up and start something at home? Chances are good if you have kids you have a video game player of some sort. Chances are also good that if your kids are off from school they may need to blow off some steam, too. Challenge them to a dance-off or a tennis match on the Wii or Playstation. Maybe bowling is more your speed. Whatever game you choose, make sure it’s an active one, and go at your own speed. Many games allow for different levels of fitness, and the goal here is just to get the blood flowing and the body active.

Other ideas for everyday fitness include changing up your routine to get brief bursts of exercise. Try squats as you brush your teeth, lunges as you put away the groceries, and full body stretches to the ceiling as you (finally!) dust the corners of your dining room for cobwebs.

Parking far away from the entrance to stores when you do your holiday shopping and taking the stairs in the mall instead of the escalator count, too. Help your favorite frazzled neighbor and take their teens to the mall to walk around, and you walk around, too.

Holiday activities

One of the best ways to get low-impact exercise over the holidays is to attend holiday events that aren’t just sitting and watching a show. Many cities have botanical gardens with beautiful displays of lights and other crafts. These are great because there are outside activities but also the opportunity to head inside to warm up for a bit. Atlanta’s botanical garden has a beautiful light display, a train that runs through the garden, and a 20-foot poinsettia tree. Similar displays are seasonal in Seattle, New York, Boston, and more.

Zoos often have holiday-themed night viewings, as do museums. Check with your local zoo to see what they have planned.

Outdoor fun

Yes, it is cold outside, but you still need sunshine and vitamin D. Bundle up and give these ideas a try.

  • Snow painting: Use food coloring for small works of art or dilute food coloring in large squeeze bottles and create a work of art on the snow.
  • Winter picnic: Pack warm foods and a thick blanket, then take a walk to a sunny spot and picnic. You could even build a fire and make s’mores!
  • Cross country skiing: This sport is a low-impact, total-body workout. If you have a chronic pain condition but are okay for exercise, give this a try. Even if you start on a flat field and are only able to ski briefly you have done wonders for your body!
  • Obstacle courses: You, your kids, and your dog may be pretty stir-crazy in the house, especially if it has been snowy. Once the weather breaks, work together to set up an agility course for the dog and an obstacle course for the kids. Don’t stand there just directing the kids. Build it with them, hauling materials and setting things up. The idea is to promote movement.
  • Shovel snow: It may not be fun, but it’s great exercise, and it needs to be done.
  • Go bird-watching: Roll pinecones in peanut butter and birdseed then hike into the woods to hang these treats for your feathered friends. Walk back the way you came and try to identify the birds you see.
  • Walk your dog: Everybody needs exercise. Having a dog is a great way to make yourself stay active, even in the winter. Take your dog for a long, leisurely walk. Let him examine every post and pole. Take your time.

There are certainly other, more traditional ways to stay active during the holidays. Swimming and yoga are both great, low-impact activities for chronic pain patients. If you want to try something new in the comfort of your own home, Youtube has an abundance of great exercise videos for that as well. Keep an eye out for special Groupon deals for things like ballroom dancing (you don’t need to sign up with a partner) or aerial yoga.

The key to sticking with exercise is to shake it up and keep it fun. Wintertime is a great time to pique your interest with something new. Between the cold and the food that is not always pain-friendly, it is especially important for chronic pain patients to stay moving and active during the holidays.

Tell us: how do you stay active in the winter?

Image by Alice Popkorn via Flickr


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