Holiday health challenges uncovered in OSU survey

Americans' holiday struggle with health habits.

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The holiday season is a happy time, but a new survey from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows that many Americans find it hard to stay healthy. Two-thirds of people in the survey overeat, almost half stop exercising, and more than half feel tired and don’t have much time for themselves. Also, one-third say they drink more alcohol during the holidays.

Barbara Bawer, MD, a family medicine physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at Ohio State University College of Medicine, said, “Holiday travel, activities with friends and family, and trying to get a bunch of things done can cause people to lose track of their healthy habits. If one healthy habit drops off, it can quickly affect other areas.”

To stay healthy during the holidays, Bawer recommends sticking to your usual routine as much as you can and being kind to yourself. Once you break your routine, it’s tough to get back on track because motivation fades. When faced with tempting invitations and rich menus, Bawer suggests saying no is okay.

To maintain healthy habits, consider the following:

Diet: Plan for events. Don’t starve yourself; eat a balanced meal earlier in the day. Enjoying your favorite dish is okay, but avoid overeating by saying no to every treat.

Exercise: Stick to your usual workout routine. If you can’t make it to the gym, be flexible. Saying no to the gym is fine; engage in active activities with friends or family, like walking or playing a game.

Sleep: Maintain your regular sleep schedule, even when traveling. Limit the use of sleep aids like melatonin. It’s okay to decline invitations if you feel stretched.

Alcohol: While it’s common to drink more during the holidays, binge drinking is unhealthy. Say no to excessive drinking; stick to recommended limits. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach and stay hydrated.

Bawer suggests “making small, consistent changes and gradually building on them to achieve your health goals.”

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center conducted a survey using SSRS on its Opinion Panel Omnibus platform. The national study, held twice a month, took place from Oct. 20-23 with 1,007 respondents. Data collection occurred through web (n=977) and telephone (n=30) interviews, all conducted in English. The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The survey data is weighted to represent the U.S. adult population aged 18 or older.

In conclusion, the Ohio State survey highlights the difficulty many Americans have in keeping healthy habits during the holidays. The study reveals challenges in diet, exercise, sleep, and alcohol consumption. 

To address these struggles, it suggests planning meals, staying active with family and friends, maintaining regular sleep schedules, and practicing moderation with alcohol. The findings provide insights into the health hurdles during the festive season, offering practical tips to help individuals navigate and prioritize their well-being.

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