Don’t ignore health during holidays

During the holiday season, we want to do everything—and we also want to do everything perfectly.
We go to Christmas banquets and New Year’s parties. We spend lots of time with our families eating scrumptious dinners and exchanging gifts.
And in order to be sure we have the best gifts for those we love, we shop . . . and shop . . . and shop.
We send cards and notes to good friends from the past. Wonderful aromas of cinnamon and other tantalizing spices come from our kitchens. And we share goodies and festivities with the people in our lives today.
With all that busyness, something has to give. And I think it often is exercise!
In the 11 years since I’ve been going to water aerobics, I have noticed that the pool is sparsely-populated during July and August–the vacation months–and also during the holiday seasons of late November and December.
And I’ve also noticed that some of the regulars are slow coming back (and it seems some people never come back).
It takes stick-to-it-iveness to be conscientious about exercise.
It’s easy to let healthy habits go when you don’t have time or when you have house guests. Or when you just don’t feel like it. But that’s a mistake.
Exercise should be a very high priority, especially when you are stressed and “too busy.”
I have a fat file folder labelled “Exercise.” In it are an assortment of magazine and Internet articles dating back to 1988. In one way or another, all the articles say the same thing: exercise is important for your health.
Here’s a sampling of the titles: “Exercise Controls Triglycerides”; “Exercise May Help in Treating Depression”; “Exercise Is Key to Strong Bones”; and “To What Extent Can Exercise Lower My Medical Costs?”
Experts say that exercise lessens the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise helps you sleep better and increases your energy.
It also helps control your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Another series of articles stress the brain connection: “Sweating Makes You Smart”; “Exercise and Healthy Diet Slow Memory Loss”; and “Older Women Walkers Think Better.”
Many studies have confirmed this connection between exercise and a healthy brain. Two such studies were reported in an issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
One study involved researchers at the Harvard School for Public Health. They studied the exercise patterns of 18,000 older women over a 12-year period and found that people who walked regularly had the mental agility of much younger people.
They also found that the subjects who reported walking six hours a week had a 20 percent lower risk of mental impairment than their more inactive peers.
A second study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine found the same to be true for men.
These researchers studied men aged 71-93 and reported that those who walked the least had twice the risk of developing dementia as those who walked at least two miles a day.
Clearly, exercise is important, especially as you get older.
So this new year, don’t forget to exercise. After all, what is more important than your health?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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