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Amid holiday stress, take a minute to stretch

Vicky Hallett, one of the Post's MisFit columnists, is The Checkup's guest blogger today.

'Fess up: The only time you broke a sweat in the last few weeks involved rushing toward a buffet table. But while it's understandable that your holiday schedule has kept you from focusing on fitness, that doesn't make it OK -- even if you do have grand plans to return to the gym right after nursing that New Year's hangover.

Beyond the basic benefit of warding off a Santa-sized belly, exercise has been shown to boost your energy (critical for party-hopping endurance), perk up your mood (thus making spirits bright) and help you sleep (to enjoy those visions of sugar plums). Most importantly, it can help relieve stress, which, like fruitcake, is available in abundance this time of year.

My MisFits column this week, which is on line today and will appear in Thursday's Local Living section, is all about making short workouts effective. There's plenty of advice in there, but one detail I'm hoping folks will note is that the plan outlined in "The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough" by Sean Foy devotes the last minute to breathing and light stretching. When I asked Foy about including something that doesn't burn any calories, he said it was the most important minute of the program: "Sometimes I'll challenge people just to give me that one minute a day."

That's because relaxing is necessary for recovery, whether it's from a rough workout or a rough day at work. And when you really don't have time for anything else, a good stretch can go a long way toward making you feel better.

I asked John Schumacher, the founder of Unity Woods Yoga Center (the largest studio in the Washington area), for his favorite stress-busting stretches. If you walked into his office you might see him sitting in his chair, interlocking his fingers and then reaching his arms over his head to open up his chest. "It gives you an energy burst without the Starbucks," he promised. Another one: Stand up, lean over at a 90-degree angle and place your hands on a table, then stretch as though someone's pulling your hips back.

Any of you have a one-minute routine for when you're crunched for time? We'd love to hear about it.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Blogger , Nutrition and Fitness , Stress , Yoga  
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