Last updated: February 19. 2013 9:32PM - 169 Views

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NOVI, Mich. -- Shortly after the mall doors opened, Douglas and Ouley Saulsberry made their rounds through the hallways. They walk the halls of both levels every day except Sunday, getting in about four miles before most stores open at 10 a.m.


I call the mall the poor man's gym, says Douglas Saulsberry, 61.


He and his wife, Ouley — retired teachers — don't veer from their workout routine at Twelve Oaks Mall, even during the busy holiday season.


I find by getting up and doing this, I have more energy to take care of all the extra things I have to do doing the holiday, says Ouley Saulsberry, 62.


I find it even more important because I love sweets and there are more sweets to eat during the holidays, says Douglas Saulsberry. Just last night I had a slice of rum cake, sweet potato pie and Häagen-Dazs ice cream.


The Saulsberrys are hardly alone. After all, 'tis the season to eat, drink and be merry.


There's almost no getting around it. There are Christmas cookies at the office, pies and cakes baking in the oven at home and holiday parties galore!


With all the extra stuff on to-do lists — shopping, kids concerts, shopping, church programs, shopping, traveling, more shopping — it's easy to get off track and pile on the extra pounds during the holidays.


It's easy to gain 5 to 15 pounds just from Thanksgiving to New Year's, says Colleen Greene, wellness coordinator for MHealth, a healthy living initiative for students and employees at the University of Michigan.


But you don't have to pack on holiday pounds.


The University of Michigan and various fitness educators have advice aimed at helping people through the eating season.


Think one word: Maintain.


Maintain your weight and maintain and/or implement a workout routine.


This is not the time to go on a diet, Greene says. For most people, that would mean setting yourself up for failure.


It's more realistic to aim not to gain, she says.


A key ingredient of maintaining weight and health during the holidays is making sure you get in some exercise just as the Saulsberrys do.


People tend not to be as diligent with their routines during the holidays, but there are ways to burn calories even with all the extra things you have to do, says Christina Eyers, supervisor of athletic training at Henry Ford Health System. You can burn 240 calories during household chores. Instead of using a leaf blower, get out and rake the leaves. Find ways to be really active in your daily living. If you're going to the mall anyway, park far from the door. Take fruits and vegetables with you to snack on. And take a bottle of water to drink so you won't be tempted by their sugary drinks.


Eyers and Greene say don't let company be an excuse. Instead, get active with your loved ones.


Go for a family walk. Go out and play touch football together, Greene says. Put on some music and dance.


They advise finding outdoor fitness activities that you'll enjoy so the holidays and ensuing cold weather don't become an excuse for inactivity.


That's exactly what Delores Muller, 40, did. She enjoyed roller skating as a child and took up ice skating as an adult.


Now, she ice skates at least twice a week during her lunch break in downtown Detroit, where she's a computer programmer.


I love it, she says of ice skating at Campus Martius. They play holiday music and it just puts me in a good mood. And it's also a way to get some fresh air and sunshine.


Skating during her lunch hour assures she gets exercise in spite of the extra holiday duties that come with her three children, ages 11, 9 and 7.


I also find that when I exercise, I eat healthier, she says. When I get back to the office, if I see cookies, I think ‘I just skated an hour.' I might eat a cookie, but I won't eat as many as I would have. I'd say I cut my sweets intake in half when I'm exercising.


Many fitness facilities offer special packages just for the holidays.


Think of taking care of yourself as your holiday gift to yourself, says Nikole Saffle, senior program director at the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit. You have to prioritize you.


Saffle says the Y offers guest passes for individuals and families.


Think about hosting a family activity day at the Y, she says. It would make the holidays different and special.


Be Nice Yoga in Detroit offers a Home for the Holidays pass of four classes for $20.


The holidays are the absolute best time to stay in tune with regular yoga practice because it keeps you grounded so you can share in the more meaningful aspects of the holiday, says studio owner and yoga instructor Monica Breen.


Tarek Hamade, general manager of LA Fitness in Royal Oak, Mich., suggests that in addition to asking gyms about holiday specials and guest passes, people should check facilities' websites. LA Fitness, for example, offers free, three-day guest passes online.


Fitness club members with out-of-town guests should talk with club managers about deals as well, he advises.


Bottom line is we want people to work out and enjoy the facilities, Hamade says.

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