Around the holidays, most of us gravitate toward one of two extremes.
1. The Guilt Trip. We fail to keep up with our workout schedule and eating goals—and then beat ourselves up about it. Or,
2. Utter Abandon. We fail to keep up with our workout schedule and eating goals—so we opt for hedonism instead. We avoid the gym and embrace a frenzy of undisciplined eating, while vowing to get back on track in January.
This year, I would like to propose a better way—a way I call Little Bits of Fit. Instead of giving up on health, or feeling guilty for not cramming trips to the gym into an already overloaded schedule, look for opportunities to insert small bouts of movement into your day—walk up a flight of stairs, take a work break to do a few bodyweight squats or take a jaunt around the block, do a set of lunges or stomach crunches before you settle in to watch Elf.
Science has my back on this one. For example, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that even a very-light-intensity 10-minute walk—one that barely increases your heart rate—can stimulate memory and other brain functions.
And the latest physical-activity guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services assert that even very-short activity sessions—one or two minutes here and there—add up.
Same goes for eating. An occasional choice to have a salad for lunch versus the burger and fries or eating one cookie instead of three may not be a big deal in itself, but do it a few times and the health benefits will compound over the holiday season. Author James Clear outlines this concept in his book Atomic Habits (Avery, 2018), in which he talks about “tiny changes, remarkable results.”
So this year, don’t mar your holiday season with guilt or overindulgence. Instead, opt for small but smart choices that can usher you into resolution season in better shape—mentally, emotionally and physically—than you might expect.