Celebrate the Gift of Physical Activity
5 Min. Read | November 29, 2021
Feelings of gratitude can bring a breath of fresh air into a busy (and often stressful) holiday season. And science supports the benefits of giving thanks. For example, relationship studies show couples who express gratefulness towards each other feel more positive and free to communicate. In addition, keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to boost optimism, increase exercise frequency, and reduce sick visits to the doctor.
Gratitude can also spur productivity and motivation. In another study, a group of university fundraisers who were given a pep talk thanking them for their efforts made 50 percent more fundraising calls than volunteers who were not thanked beforehand. So if you’re looking for the inspiration to do more for your health, start by being grateful for where you stand today.
Recognize the Immediate Impact of Stress
The practice of giving thanks is a positive way to shift our mindset. But gratitude alone isn’t enough to keep us healthy in the years to come. As the year is heading towards an end, we must focus on ensuring our most precious gift, our future health. To do so, we shouldn’t underestimate the immediate physical toll of stress, especially during the holidays.
Did you know the average person gains one pound between Halloween and New Year’s Day? While one pound doesn’t seem like much, the problem is, most people never lose it. As a result, extra weight accumulates year after year, contributing to a cascade of potential problems, like prediabetes, diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and more.
It’s crucial to manage stress when surrounded by an abundance of holiday treats. Recent findings suggest stress modifies how our body processes food. One study measured women’s inflammation (including C-reactive protein) and blood pressure levels after meals high in “good” fat from sunflower oil versus “bad” saturated fat. Women with recent stress showed a similar metabolic response to both meals. It seems stress makes it harder for our bodies to benefit from healthy food choices. Fortunately, GoodCell’s General Health Panel measures levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein to shed some light on how your body is handling stress.
Let Exercise Be Your Anxiety Anecdote
If you find yourself heading to the mall or the liquor store to deal with holiday stress, it may be time to reframe your go-to coping strategies. Instead of retail therapy or cocktails, how about a more restorative form of self-care?
We all know exercise is good for our muscles. But now, there’s growing evidence on the mental health benefits of moving more. While physical activity may not be enough to replace medication or therapy, it could help guard against depression and anxiety.
A large-scale study in Sweden observed the impact of exercise on 395,369 participants over 21 years. The results demonstrated that an active lifestyle through skiing significantly reduced the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder.
As you enjoy this year’s festivities, remember to show appreciation for opportunities to be active by signing up for a community race or saving time for a brisk after-dinner walk. Remember, a sprinkle of gratitude and a dose of exercise create the perfect recipe for a life well-lived.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Giving thanks can make you happier. August 14, 2021.
- Stanford BeWell. Avoiding holiday weight gain.
- Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Fagundes CP, Andridge R, et al. Depression, daily stressors and inflammatory responses to high-fat meals: when stress overrides healthier food choices. Mol Psychiatry. 2017;22(3):476-482. doi:10.1038/mp.2016.149
- Svensson M, Brundin L, Erhardt S, Hållmarker U, James S, Deierborg T. Physical activity is associated with lower long-term incidence of anxiety in a population-based, large-scale study. Front Psychiatry. 2021;12:714014.