During the holiday season, cold weather and seasonal cookies test the willpower of even the most disciplined health guru.  Studies show Americans gain an average of two pounds during the holidays. Shayna Frost, a registered dietitian with Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, says more often than not, the extra weight tends to stick around in the new year.

“The holidays and all the treats that come with them can definitely present major barriers to our healthy eating and fitness routines,” she says. The threat starts in November.

“It is estimated that the average American consumes about 4500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner. This could take an average 155-pound person about 20 days of one-hour weight-lifting, 10 days of one-hour brisk walking, or 5 or 6 days of one-hour running to burn off,” Frost says. By the time we burn this Thanksgiving weight off, we get hit again with December holidays. Pretty soon, we could find ourselves into the spring still holding onto our holiday weight.”

In the U.S., most of us are blessed with health essentials such as clean drinking water and access to physicians and hospitals. Yet our lifestyles and behaviors hold us back. As a healthcare system, we see the impact of behaviors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and stress on our patients. We also feel the impact they have on ourselves and our families.

Too often healthcare workers focus on their patients’ well-being while neglecting their own health.  So this holiday season, we are challenging our employees to better care for their patients and families by first caring for themselves.  We are launching our 25 Days of Fitness challenge on Dec. 1. Employees will participate as a team or enter the challenge solo. With each minute of cardio exercise they log, they come closer to team and individual rewards.

To support our employees and motivate everyone in our community to stay healthy during the holidays, we also will be taking the 25 Days of Fitness to Adventist HealthCare’s Twitter feed. We’ll offer daily tips on squeezing in some holiday cardio. This season, we invite you to join us as we let go of the gain.

Forget strict self-denial. Instead, focus on doing small deeds for yourself and for others, from a cheerful smile to a walk around the park to enjoy decorations and get some fresh air. Let us know the difference it made!