Healthy Holidays Challenge: Easy Exercises to Power Up Your Day

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

When midday slumps strike, don’t pour a cup of coffee. Power through with a short movement snack.

The holidays have a way of throwing even the most dedicated health enthusiast off their game. Not this year! All month long, follow along as SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen unwraps our best tips for staying healthy, happy, and, yes, even calm during this busy time of year. Check in here and on our Facebook page for new activities to try. Here’s to your healthiest, happiest holiday season ever! 

“Midday slumps are real,” says SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen. “When they hit, most of us are tempted to do one of two things: Hit the coffee maker or the pillow. But I have a better idea — move your body!

A brief “movement snack” can fuel you with energy and give your mood a lift.

The Benefits of a Movement Snack

Exercise increases blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, including the brain, says Shannon. Movement snacks also drive a small spike in your core body temperature, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. That signals to your body that it’s time to be awake. 

Exercise also sets off the release of endorphins — the feel-good hormones in the brain. If you have time for a longer movement break, research from the American College of Sports Medicine shows that the feel-good effects of 20 minutes of cardio can linger hours after the workout is over.

There’s even evidence linking movement snacks to clearer thinking. When researchers at Stanford Universitylooked at the mental effects of exercising, they found that just 15 minutes of moderate cycling on a stationary bike was enough to improve cognitive performance and reaction times for adults of all ages. 

A movement snack is like topping off your fuel tank, the study authors note. That extra fuel quickly goes to work improving your focus, alertness, and mental sharpness.

The cherry on top, adds Shannon, is that “exercise is one of the best ways to clear your mind and focus on the here and now.”

How to Use the Easy Exercises to Power Up Your Day

Press play on the video above and follow along as Shannon demonstrates her favorite exercises to ramp up her energy.

“You’ll see it takes just a couple of minutes to restore your pep!”

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.  

Here’s a quick breakdown of the exercises Shannon recommends for your movement snack. She suggests setting a timer for 2 to 5 minutes, so you can focus on the movement, not the clock. You can do each exercise for up to 1 minute or do any combination of the moves until the timer rings. Take breaks as needed.

Exercise #1: Stand up and stretch

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  1. Shoulder rolls forward and back.
  2. Extend your arms behind your back to open your chest.
  3. Place your hands on your hips and gently extend your back.
  4. Or do any of your favorite stretches.

Exercise #2: Star for Balance

  1. Stand tall and put your weight on your right leg. Have a chair nearby for support, if needed.
  2. Extend your left leg to the side and rest your left toe on the floor. As an option, you can lift the left foot slightly off the floor, as long as you can still stand tall and not teeter.
  3. Engage your core and extend your right arm up and out to the side.
  4. When you feel steady, extend your left arm up and out to the side.
  5. You should now be in a “star” shape.
  6. Hold for a count of 3 to 5, then return to start.
  7. Repeat one more time on that side.
  8. Switch legs and repeat.

Exercise #3: Side Shuffles With Knee Lifts

  1. Stand tall and engage your core.
  2. Keeping your torso straight, shuffle your feet 3 steps to the right and then 3 steps to the left.
  3. Move as quickly as you can while maintaining good form.
  4. When ready, add a knee left at the end of each side shuffle.

Exercise #4: Scissor

  1. Stand tall and engage your core.
  2. Beginning with your right foot, alternate tapping your feet behind you.
  3. When you’re ready, add the arms. Bring your right arm back with your right foot as your left arm goes up, then switch.
  4. You will be making a “scissors” motion.
  5. Go at a speed that feels right for you and that allows you to keep good form. Your shoulders should stay down and back (not up by your ears) and your torso should stay tall (not leaning forward).

Bonus Challenge: Take any SilverSneakers LIVE Express Class

These 15-minute classes are perfect as a movement snack. There are several options happening throughout the week, including:

  • Cardio & Strength
  • Cardio Interval
  • Gentle Stretch
  • Lower-body Strength
  • Mindfulness & Meditation
  • Seated strength
  • Upper-body strength
  • Walk Strong

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