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Keep stress and extra pounds at bay this holiday season with exercise By Maggie Dudacek

Don’t let traveling to visit family and friends during the holiday season interrupt your exercise routine. There are plenty of ways to stay active, even if you’re away from your usual gym, walking path or workout buddies.

Seek out ways to stay active, no matter where your travels take you. Encourage friends and loved ones to join you in a walk, run or bike ride, said Connie Crawley, a food, nutrition and health specialist with University of Georgia Extension.

“When visiting someone over the holidays, get some exercise outside or at a local fitness facility,” Crawley said. “The host and other guests may enjoy coming along so everyone can feel more energetic and less stressed.”

Crawley offers 10 tips on staying active over the holidays:

  1. Get to the airport early enough to walk to your flight’s concourse, or walk from the security checkpoint area to the last concourse before going to your gate. At Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international airport, that distance is about a mile, or a brisk, 15-minute, one-way walk. Add a backpack and you'll get some strength training as well.
  2. When traveling by car, take a break and walk for 10 to 15 minutes every two hours. Many cities have parks. Check online for state parks along your route. A short walk can improve circulation, ease stiff muscles and joints and improve alertness and mood.
  3. If you belong to a YMCA or other fitness center, check for reciprocal agreements or day passes that can be obtained at fitness centers in your destination city.
  4. If you stay at a hotel, take advantage of the on-site fitness center or indoor pool. Be sure to pack your tennis shoes, swimsuit and workout clothes. Some hotels offer in-room yoga or other fitness programs on the TV and will even deliver fitness equipment to your room. A hotel may also have special arrangements with off-site fitness centers where you can work out for free or at a reduced price. Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  5. If you are visiting friends or relatives, plan group activities. Take a bike ride on a greenway or a walk to see holiday decorations. Enjoy a friendly game of touch football, golf or basketball, or even some badminton, pingpong or bowling with the group. In northern states, sledding, skiing or ice skating may be options.
  6. At a mall, park as far away as possible and walk the entire inside of the mall before going into the store where you intend to shop.
  7. If getting outside is hard, dance to music or march in front of the TV for 30 minutes. You can even break this up so that you do it each time a commercial comes on. Most hour-long TV shows are actually only about 40 minutes long with 20 minutes of ads, so you’ll get a good workout during the commercial breaks.
  8. Pack rubber tubing or stretch bands in your suitcase to use to keep muscles toned.
  9. Download yoga or Pilates workouts to take along, or bring an instruction book or DVD.
  10. Buy fitness equipment, books or apparel as holiday gifts that others will be able to use not only during your visit, but also throughout the year.

For more information about staying fit during the holidays visit spock.fcs.uga.edu/ext/Zero_Holiday_Challenge/.

(Maggie Dudacek is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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Nature Hike

Finding time to exercise with friends and family can be a healthy addition to holiday get togethers.

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