The 12 Days of Holiday Health
“On the first day of Christma-Hanu-Kwanza-vus my true love gave to me…”
With the holidays in full swing, it can be tough staying on top of your health. Try these tips to enjoy a little holiday indulgence without sacrificing your health goals. (Just for fun, we set it to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas.” Enjoy!)
12. Drummers Drumming
Experts believe that rhythmic drumming can aid health by inducing a deep sense of relaxation, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure.
The active component of drumming helps reduce stress in a number of ways. If you need to vent, what better way than to hit something? It’s fun, it’s physical, and it’s a great diversion from other stress-filled activities.
11. Pipers Piping
Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin, PhD, studies the neuroscience of music and how music affects our mental and physical health, citing new evidence that “music can alter brain chemistry” and “affect mood and heart rate and respiration rate.”
What does that mean for your health? It could mean everything. Research is underway on ways that music can help treat insomnia, high-blood pressure, epilepsy, chronic pain, addiction, heart disease, depression and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease!
And that should strike a chord with everyone.
10. Lord a’Leaping
What piece of exercise equipment sells for under $20, fits into a briefcase, can be used by the whole family, and improves cardiovascular fitness while toning muscle at the same time? The answer: a jump rope.
Jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. You’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you’d burn jumping rope.
9. Ladies Dancing
Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Studies show that dancing can help you lose weight, stay flexible, reduce stress, make friends, and more.
What are you waiting for? Start reaping the many health benefits of dance today.
8. Maid a’Milking
Everyone knows that milk has calcium for growing bones, but did you know it also has vitamin K, strontium, magnesium and vitamin C? All of which play a vital role in growth and development and decreased risk for osteoporosis.
Milk also contains vitamin D, which is thought to play a role in mitigating the risk for colorectal cancer and support production of serotonin, a hormone associated with mood, appetite and sleep.
With nine essential nutrients and a surprising effect on disease, milk should be a dietary staple for millions of Americans.
7. Swans a’Swimming
Swimming is one of the only aerobic activities that allows you to work your body without harsh impact to your skeletal system.
It can also increase muscle tone, improve flexibility and improve heart health, just to name a few.
6. Geese a’Laying
Sleep helps you think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and focus better. (Ok, so this isn’t the type of ‘laying’ that the song was talking about, but sleep is probably my most favorite thing that my body requires for survival, and it deserves a place on this list.)
We have so many demands on our time—jobs, family, errands—to fit everything in, we often sacrifice sleep. But sleep affects both mental and physical health.
“Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.”
So do yourself a favor and make sure you regularly get a good night’s sleep.
5. Gold Rings
Tracking your activity is shown to improve accountability and increase motivation. It inspires a mindfulness that transcends exercise to include healthy eating and sleep habits.
4. Calling Birds
When was the last time you picked up the phone just to talk?
Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health. Friends form one of the foundations of our ability to cope with the problems that life throws at us, keeping us grounded and helping us get things in perspective. It is worth putting effort into maintaining our friendships and making new friends.
3. French Hens
The obsession with calories, macronutrients and ingredients that is common in the U.S. does not exist in France: they simply eat fairly healthy, natural foods in general.
The French consider a meal an experience. Unlike Americans, who typically scarf down meals and dash off to the next activity, they eat slowly and leisurely.
2. Turtle Doves
Who doesn’t love being in love? Researchers can’t say for sure that romance trumps an affectionate family or warm friendships when it comes to wellness. But they are homing in on how sex, kinship, and caring all seem to make us stronger, with health gains that range from faster healing to living longer.
and a Partridge in a Pear tree
During the holidays, the abundance of sugar and carb available for snacking makes it easy to overindulge. Making smart food choices, like starting the meal with a broth-based soup and eating enough fruits and vegetables (and, no, if it’s in a pie, it doesn’t count) will make it easier to stave off those holiday pounds.