They don't call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.
'Tis the season for all things merry: large family dinners, chunky sweaters, cozying up by the fire. And while the holidays (read: Grandma's egg nog) are often synonymous with winter weight gain, celebrations are actually really good for your health. Check out these five reasons why:
Okay, so things like Christmas cookies and candy canes aren't exactly a blessing to your waistline. But other holiday classics are actually chock-full of body benefits, according to Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N. Whether it's used in pies or soups, puréed pumpkin has only 83 calories but contains a whopping 7 grams of fiber and 763 percent (!!) of your vitamin A needs for the day. Cranberries? Loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and 5 grams of fiber in a one-cup serving. And who can forget all those Christmas fishes packed with heart-healthy omega-3s? Just make sure that Christmas Eve feast isn't fried. (And those aren't the only holiday-favorite superfoods.)
Hugs for All!
Turns out that cuddling, hugging, and simply touching the people you care about can help you relax and put you in better spirits, according to one University of North Carolina study. Research shows that those who hugged had higher blood levels of oxytocin, the hormone that improves mood and relieves stress.
See Ya Later, Cubicle
Arguably the best part of the holidays, aside from all that family time and hello—gifts—is NOT being at a desk for a few days. Taking time out of the office can actually increase your productivity once you're back, according to a University of Illinois study. (Here's why you should add a standing desk to your holiday wish list too—it's a gift that keeps on giving.)
An Upgraded Workout Squad
Who said holidays had to be spent entirely by the fire? Take that family time to the barre (or pick your poison!), and you may be surprised. "It's always much more fun and motivating to commit to a workout with a friend," says Alycia Stevenin, a master trainer at Barry's Bootcamp. Plus, working out with a partner actually increases your work ethic, according to one study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. (ICYMI there are even more benefits to working out with friends.)
Family Time = The Best Time
Sure, it's nice to catch up with Mom on the phone, but real face time with your loved ones is unrivaled. Amid chilly temperatures and gloomy winter weather, the best way to fend off depression is to have quality time with loved ones in person, according to a study from Oregon Health & Science University. Now, who wants to open presents?