The twelve days of fitness

Dec. 4, 2018

This photo shows children outside in warm coats and hats as snow begins to fall.

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 10-minute walk TWO times a day

“Walking increases brain firing and makes you a lot more attentive,” Hornbrook said. “A 10-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 the 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 a week

Regular exercise decreases the risk of various health issues, from heart disease to depression. Most any movement counts including 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 a 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 a day

That works out to about five 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 a 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 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.”


This article first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Dec. 3, 2018.

About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at