How to keep fit and eat healthy all season long

by Kaiser Permanente |
A happy couple works out together in an open field

From now through New Year’s, our days will be filled with celebrating and shopping, eating and indulging, traveling and gathering with loved ones. But with all the holiday hubbub, how do you stay healthy, fit, and feeling good?

We know physical activity and eating healthy are important year-round. It can just be harder to stay on track during the holidays (cue the cookies, candies, and fruit cakes, not to mention all that cozy time on the couch). So, to stay motivated, try adding some of these fun ideas into your busy schedule.

Get outside

ring the cooler winter months, get your body moving and heart pumping in the great outdoors. There are many ways to get outside and work up a sweat. Activities that you and your family might enjoy include:

  • Brisk walks — Go for a nice stroll alone or with a friend in your neighborhood or local park.
  • Raking leaves — Engage your muscles while getting a little yardwork done.
  • Snowball fights — Not just for the kids, making snowballs can be fun for everyone.
  • Flag football — Whether you’re sporty or not, this is a great way to get the whole family running around.
  • Window shopping — With so many beautifully-decorated outdoor shopping centers, powerwalking while shopping is a fun way to take in the holiday lights.

According to Kaiser Permanente cardiologist Abhimanyu Uberoi, MD, "The challenge during the holidays is that you’re off your routine, but you can still take a 10- to 15-minute walk. Something is better than nothing. With 10 minutes of high-intensity activity like stair runs or jumping jacks, you can get the equivalent of a full hour of slower-paced activity."

Even if you’re not going at a fast pace, simply being outside and in nature can be good for your health. According to a 2018 study, spending time in natural green spaces is associated with health benefits ranging from reduced risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease to improved sleep.1So, bundle up and get outside!

Snack smart

‘Tis the season for eating big meals and sweet treats. Here are a few ways to keep your eating in check.

  • Stock up on healthy foods. Keep good-for-you foods like nuts and fruits on hand so you can manage your sugar cravings. Uberoi explains, "One of the diets many cardiologists find helpful is a Mediterranean style diet because it encourages people to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains."
  • Stay hydrated. A big glass of water before meals and in between other holiday beverages is a good strategy to help keep you full and minimize overindulgence.
  • Practice portion control. Small bites and small portions are some of the best strategies for healthy holiday eating. Enjoy yourself in moderation. You don’t have to abstain from your favorite foods, just cut down on serving sizes.

"The beauty of the holidays is that you can create your own traditions. We can grow with the times and use the knowledge we have now to make better decisions about what we eat," says Dr. Uberoi. "Some examples for heart-healthy substitutions are using olive oil in place of canola oil, substituting low-fat milk for heavy cream, whole grain bread for white bread, and Greek yogurt for ranch dressing."  

Beware of stress

So much of the holiday season is spent getting together with friends and family. However, strained relationships and even loneliness can trigger stress, depression, and overeating. According to Dr. Uberoi, "Many people use food and alcohol as a coping mechanism to help deal with stress." This is why it’s important to spend time with the people who make us happy, doing things we love.

  • Know the signs of a healthy, happy relationship like mutual respect, compromise, and support.
  • De-stress your life by doing things that make you happy. Happiness leads to healthier behaviors, it helps stave off high blood pressure and excess body fat, and can result in a lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.2

So, as your holiday season ramps up, be sure staying healthy and happy is at the top of your wish list.  

Looking for more ways to live healthy? Check out our many online resources.

1"It’s Official — Spending Time Outside is Good for You,", July 6, 2018. 

2"How Happiness Affects Health,", American Heart Association, May 20, 2020.