Student tips on staying active and how to talk about active living during the holidays

KSR Introduction to Biological Aspects of Fitness to Health (HE ED 120) students provide their insights on encouraging active living over the holidays

Nicole Graham - 13 December 2019

Staying active during the holidays can be tricky, and even more so if you're surrounded by friends and family who are less inclined to participate in or maintain some level of physical activity during the festive season.

Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation (KSR) students in HE ED 120 - Introduction to the Biological Aspects of Fitness to Health spend the semester analyzing the contributions of physical activity and exercise to fitness and long term health. They receive an introduction of training principles, health related components of physical fitness, exercise and physical activity guidelines, the application of these concepts, individual long-term health outcomes, and preventable diseases. The students' instructor, KSR associate professor Michael Kennedy, encourages his HE ED 120 students to practice what they learn throughout the course, challenging them to educate and motivate friends and family over the holidays.

The students trialed their talks out with their families over the Thanksgiving break in October, after planning ahead what they were going to say, expected feedback and response to that feedback. While some students received a bit of push back from friends and family members who don't engage with a regular exercise or physical activity plan, the majority of the students were able to not only educate their friends and family, but encouraged them all to be more active, even during the holidays!

Three HE ED 120 students-Olivia Harris, Alexander McKenzie and Haley Berrisford-share their experiences and offer some suggestions on how we all can be more active during the holidays.

Olivia Harris

"I took advantage of our holiday dinner to talk to my family about their views on physical activity and the benefits living a physically active lifestyle have on our health. My dad's fear of getting injured during exercise was his biggest barrier. He was surprised when I told him that a number of Canadian adults report fear of injury as the main reason they don't engage in physical activity. We discussed the benefits of exercise and how those benefits far outweigh the risks of participating in exercise or physical activity. I also reminded him that it doesn't take that much physical activity to reap said benefits-75 minutes of walking per week is enough to increase life expectancy by 1.8 years!"

"My mom is already really active, exercising four times per week for an hour each time and combining cardio and resistance training. We did determine that while she participates in more recreational activity in the summer-gardening and riding her bike-she didn't do as much in the winter. We discussed some other options for meeting that recreational activity need, and we signed up for a boxing class together!"

"Overall, my family was very receptive, so much so that we went for a 20 minute walk right after dinner, and an hour walk before we drove the four hours home at the end of our holiday."

"I suggest reminding your friends and family of how simple it is to become more physically active. Walking 75 minutes per week is a very achievable goal to start with, and will provide long-term health benefits. I also suggest encouraging group and recreational activities over the holidays, if possible. Post-meal walks, strolling through the neighbourhood to look at Christmas lights, skating, tobogganing-anything to get everyone moving!"

Alexander McKenzie

"I used our holiday family gathering as an opportunity to talk to my family about the difference between occupational and physical activity. Despite all of the physically demanding aspects of working in the trades (as electricians, heavy duty, mechanics and welders), technically these strenuous occupational related activities are not considered exercise. For something to be counted as true exercise, it has to be structured, planned and repetitive. I informed my family that one of the main goals of an exercise program is to increase one or more aspects of physical fitness, which has a direct impact on our health. I encouraged my family to consider implementing an exercise program into their lives that targets the aspects of fitness that are not influenced by their work activities such as aerobic exercise and flexibility training."

"I suggest that people who work in the trades-or any physically demanding job-try to implements a cardio/aerobic and flexibility program into their lives. By doing so, this will benefit both their health and their performance at work as they have already developed good measures of muscular strength and endurance from the labour intensive nature of the trades. This will also keep them active over any longer periods of time where they are not working, such as holiday breaks."

Haley Berrisford

"The conversations I had with my family over the holidays focused on how physical activity increases longevity and improves overall health. I explained that physical activity is any body movement that results in energy expenditure above resting levels; however, they need to engage in the activity for a minimum of 10 minutes at an intensity level two times higher than when at rest. I brought up the studies we looked at in HE ED 120 that show the correlation between intense exercise and longer life spans.

"Because my family is avid runners and triathletes, we also talked about progressive overload for elite athletes. We discussed how the volume of training refers to the time and intensity of the training program. I suggested that where they are unable to dedicate more time to train, they can increase the intensity of their training in order to reap the benefits of progressive overload."

"Overall, if you're currently have a fairly sedentary lifestyle, you are poised to make the most improvements with the least amount of physical activity, as doing something is definitely better than nothing! This is a great motivator to get started as you know that with every little bit of physical activity you participate in, you are making a positive impact on your health. I also suggest to those more avid exercisers who find it difficult to balance training during busy holiday weeks to keep in mind that by increasing your intensity during your training sessions can help you reap the benefits of progressive overload, while still having time to enjoy in the holiday season!"