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Yes, that’s right! I do NOT want you to exercise to burn off those extra calories from this holiday season. Why? First of all, we can’t measure with any great accuracy how many calories we are burning when exercising.  So, playing the “calories in, calories out” game can lead to a frustrating “dead end” with weight loss.

But mostly, it’s because you run the risk of missing out on the real benefits of taking time to be physically active this season:

#1: Stress reduction.  Mental stress prepares your body for movement and over the holidays, your body accumulates a lot of preparation for movement! Letting your body move in a way that is not stressful is the antidote to stress. Taking even five to ten minutes for a walk or stretch break can give your body what it has been preparing for, clearing out the ‘overwhelm’ and tension. This can help you recover from the holidays more effectively and relax and enjoy things a bit more.

#2: Boosting mood.  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” does not always ring true. This time of year can be full of emotions, especially if you are battling depression or living through the loss of a loved one. Exercise boosts brain chemicals that help us feel better, battle the blues, and handle strong emotions.

#3: Crave less. Exercise also boosts the same brain chemicals that create cravings for comfort foods, but in a much more balanced and user-friendly way. So your brain gets what it is looking for, giving you a greater ability to resist the temptations of all the extra goodies hanging around.

So you see, if your purpose for exercising is focused on how many calories you are burning, you might miss out these great benefits. Use exercise as the tremendous resource that it is for enjoying (and making a full recovery from) the holidays!