Footing the bill for a truly happy holidays

Happy holidays! Here’s hoping you survive them!

If you’re looking for a time of year that’s hardest on your body, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the one that kicked off with pants-unbuckling Thanksgiving and ends with a cold pack on your head New Year’s Day. Think about the damage alone done by the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Thanksgiving: overeating. Estimates place the typical holiday meal at 3,000-plus calories, or closing in on twice the recommended daily calorie intake for the average person. And that’s just for the main meal; in the case of Thanksgiving you can nearly double that amount if you throw in the follow-up leftover meals that will be consumed by day’s end.

Black Friday: stress. First, there’s the business of consuming nearly 6,000 calories on Thanksgiving, then heading out at midnight to elbow your way to the $2 waffle irons table. Add to that your wacko fellow shoppers — a female shopper at a California Walmart used pepper spray to keep her competitors at bay — and you’ve pretty much taken 10 years off your life with those two days alone. And the bulk of the holiday season remains.

You want a truly happy holidays, or at least a holiday season that won’t do you in? Then you need to do something that helps you deal with both overeating and stress. Lucky for you that some thing is one thing:

Going for a walk.

Walking is the nation’s most popular form of exercise. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, 95.8 million Americans walked for exercise in 2010 (exercising with equipment was a distant second, with 55.3 million participants). There’s good reason for this: most people can walk, it doesn’t require special equipment, you can do it spontaneously, out your front door, so it can be done quickly.

There’s more reasons to walk. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can:

  • Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • Raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
  • Manage your weight
  • Improve your mood
  • Keep you strong and fit

Walking isn’t a magic bullet. It won’t completely diffuse the stress of the holidays; but it will take the edges off and make the season more manageable. And it won’t exactly act as a cross to that batch of Christmas fudge your vampire coworkers bring in, but it will help in keeping the damage to a minimum. And, truly, a half hour at lunch, after work or at some point during the day can make a huge difference.

That said, are you ready to commit to a daily walk? And if not daily, then what is a realistic goal? Take our survey and we’ll report back in a week or so with the results. And take a minute to tell us your favorite place to walk. It could serve as inspiration to others.

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[highlight]Survey says: Are you ready to commit to walking daily through the holidays? If not, then how many times, realistically, do you think you can vow to hit the trail? Take our survey and let us know. Click here to take survey [/highlight]

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