Don't wait for the New Year to live healthier. Through its "Healthy for the Holidays" campaign, the Louisiana Department of Health is encouraging residents to stay active and make positive choices during the holiday season.

These next two weeks will be hectic and very busy with parties and family get-togethers with plenty of great food. If you don't stay active, you may find yourself battling the bulge.

"The holidays are a wonderful time of the year to enjoy food and family," said Rudy Macklin, executive director of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. "But the holidays also divert our attention from staying physically fit and get us out of our routine of working out."

If you're already exercising, don't let the change in your schedule keep you from maintaining your exercise regimen. You don't have to exercise at the exact time, but it's important to be certain that you continue your exercise routine, even if it means waking up an hour earlier to get in a workout, or making time after your holiday lunch. Experts say it not only helps keep you physically fit, mentally it reminds you that your number one objective is to stay healthy.

Being physically fit benefits us in many ways:

  • Decreases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity
  • Increases energy and endurance
  • Helps maintain a normal weight
  • Relieves stress and anxiety

Experts say adults need 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity aerobic activity including brisk walking, cycling or dancing, anything that gets you moving and increases breathing and heart rate. Children should have 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day.

"Working out at a fitness center is great for burning calories and staying in shape," said Macklin. "But you don't need a fitness center to stay in shape. You can go outside and play football or basketball, take a brisk walk around the park, or play with your kids in the yard. After eating holiday meal, you should burn those extra calories. Do simple activities that exert energy."

  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park the car in the furthest spot from the entrance and walk the extra distance to your destination
  • Get off the bus one stop before your destination and walk the extra distance
  • Take a 10 minute walk during your lunch break
  • Play outside with the kids
  • Dance to your favorite song
  • Use house cleaning or outdoor chores as an exercise opportunity

LDH has posted simple exercises you can do at your office or at your house on its YouTube page. These exercises will help relieve stress.

For more information on how to stay active and exercise right, visit the CDC's Physical Fitness webpage at ..