Monday Medical: The 12 days of fitness |

Monday Medical: The 12 days of fitness

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The holidays are the perfect time to connect with family and friends, to enjoy festive foods and even to make fitness fun.

Below, Alyssa Hornbrook, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist at UCHealth SportsMed Clinics in Steamboat Springs and Hayden, shares her tips for “Twelve Days of Fitness” that come in handy year-round.

• Work out with (at least) ONE friend: Studies show people exercise 24 percent longer with someone else than alone. And, it can make the workout fly by. “If you’re hiking up a trail with a friend, all of a sudden you’re at the top and you didn’t even think about it,” Hornbrook said.

• Take a ten-minute walk TWO times per day: “Walking increases brain firing and makes you a lot more attentive,” Hornbrook said. “A ten-minute loop can change your whole perspective for the day.” One of Hornbrook’s favorites is the “holiday pre-dessert walk” — bundle up as a family and take a short jaunt before cookies and pies are served.

• Choose THREE or more go-to activities: Specializing in just one sport can increase risk of overuse injuries, so enjoy several types of activities throughout the year. And, when a new season starts, transition slowly. “We get so excited to do our winter activities, we forget that starting too fast can lead to aches and pains,” Hornbrook said.

• Stand up FOUR times per hour if you have a desk job: “Stand, take a breath, stretch your back,” Hornbook said. “It gets your blood flowing and helps posture.”

• Exercise at least FIVE days per week: Regular exercise decreases the risk of various health issues, from heart disease to depression. Most any movement counts – walking the dog, doing some core work or hitting the dance floor at your office holiday party.

• Exercise at SIX a.m.: “There are tons of benefits to working out in the morning,” Hornbrook said. You can kick your metabolism into gear all day, and you won’t skip your workout when that afternoon meeting runs long.

• Get at least SEVEN hours of sleep each night: Sleep isn’t wasted time; rather, it’s a vital part of your body’s healing and recovery. And you just may dream about sugar plums — or your favorite current-day snack.

• Drink at least EIGHT glasses of water per day: Hydration is another key to good health. For some holiday spirit, add whole cranberries and a squeeze of citrus.

• NINE in line, straighten that spine: No, there aren’t nine vertebrae in the spine, there are actually 33. But a little rhyme just might help you remember to sit up straight. And, while driving to grandmother’s house, sit up straight and then adjust your rearview mirror. “If you start to slump, you won’t be able to see behind you,” Hornbrook said.

• Take TEN thousand steps per day: That works out to about 5 miles, which goes a long way towards good health. When streets get icy, find an indoor walking spot, such as your office or a large store, where you can scope out those holiday deals.

• Take ELEVEN breaths in one minute: That’s a bit slower than the typical 18 to 20 breaths per minute and can help decrease stress and anxiety levels. For bonus points, Hornbrook recommends trying mindfulness.

• Do TWELVE reps of an exercise during commercials: Want a lazy day on the couch watching holiday re-runs? Just pack the commercials with a series of lunges, squats and pushups.

Don’t forget Hornbrook’s main tip: Have fun. ‘Tis the season, after all.

“You’re probably not going to want to work out if it’s not fun,” Hornbrook said. “But, if you find something you love, exercise is a joy and not a task.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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